Sports

After third straight season being so close, 49ers move forward looking to contend again in '14

  • San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh gestures during an NFL football news conference Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

    San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh gestures during an NFL football news conference Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)  (The Associated Press)

  • San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner pulls a bag as he exits a locker room at an NFL training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Jan. 20, 2014. The 49ers lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

    San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner pulls a bag as he exits a locker room at an NFL training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Jan. 20, 2014. The 49ers lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)  (The Associated Press)

  • San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks, foreground, shakes hands with safety Donte Whitner in the locker room at an NFL training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Jan. 20, 2014. The 49ers lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

    San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks, foreground, shakes hands with safety Donte Whitner in the locker room at an NFL training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Jan. 20, 2014. The 49ers lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)  (The Associated Press)

The San Francisco 49ers took months last year to get over the sting of a three-point Super Bowl loss to Baltimore.

It won't be much different as they head into the offseason this time, again left to ponder how close they came. Except this time, they have the added frustration of being forced to watch the rival Seattle Seahawks head to the Super Bowl next week instead.

Three years under coach Jim Harbaugh, three near misses. Yet this is exactly where the franchise wants to be: competing for a chance at the Super Bowl each year.

What hurt perhaps more than packing up two weeks prematurely was seeing All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman go down with a serious knee injury during Sunday's 23-17 NFC championship loss at Seattle.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org