SANTA CLARA, Calif. – As the celebration raged in the victorious 49ers locker room, general manager John Lynch showed off a "Mobile to Miami" T-shirt that symbolized the turnaround in San Francisco.
The team that was so bad a year ago that the coaching staff got rewarded with a week coaching the Senior Bowl in Alabama is now playing for the championship in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 in Miami against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"It is amazing," defensive lineman Arik Armstead said. "It means a lot to us, especially going through all of the adversity that we went through over the past couple of years. To be going to the Super Bowl and have the chance to be the top of the league is amazing."
The 49ers (15-3) got there thanks to a big-play running game led by Raheem Mostert that rushed for 285 yards and a defense that tormented Aaron Rodgers in a 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
That sent the Niners to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2012 season.
Only a handful of players such as cornerback Richard Sherman, tackle Joe Staley, receiver Emmanuel Sanders and center Ben Garland have Super Bowl playing experience.
Coach Kyle Shanahan went there once before as an offensive coordinator for Atlanta in the 2016 season when the Falcons memorably blew a 28-3 lead and lost 34-28 in overtime to New England.
Shanahan took lessons from that game, including never feeling comfortable with a lead. But the biggest thing he learned was how to approach Super Bowl week.