Barber: 49ers looking for 1st signature win at Levi's Stadium
SANTA CLARA — Let’s discuss the greatest 49ers win in the history of Levi’s Stadium. First, we need to identify that win.
Here are some candidates.
Sept. 14, 2015: The Niners come out on top in their Santa Clara debut, beating the Dallas Cowboys 28-17 under coach Jim Harbaugh in a sparkling Monday night opener.
Dec. 24, 2017: Rejuvenated by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, acquired in a trade two months earlier, the 49ers survive a fourth-quarter scare and beat the playoff-bound Jacksonville Jaguars 44-33.
Nov. 1, 2018: The 49ers earn bragging rights by dismantling the Raiders 34-3 in a Thursday night game.
Oct. 7, 2019: San Francisco chops down the much-hyped Cleveland Browns, sacking Baker Mayfield four times in a 34-3 Monday win.
Nov. 17, 2019: Garoppolo throws four touchdown passes and the 49ers pull away from the Arizona Cardinals to run their record to 9-1.
I know what you’re thinking right about now. I’m offering you an album, and it’s Captain & Tennille’s Greatest Hits. The 49ers have won 20 regular-season games since moving into Levi’s Stadium in 2014 (they are 20-25 overall), and not one of those wins stands up as a classic. As the five aforementioned candidates suggest, the Niners’ home victories since they abandoned Candlestick Park have been inconsequential, too early in the season to feel important or at the expense of mediocre opposition — and sometimes all three.
In other words, over 5½ seasons, this team has yet to log a signature win at Levi’s.
Oh, it’s had a couple signature losses. You know about Thanksgiving Day 2014, when the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, both 7-4 at the time, met here in a battle for the inside track to a playoff position. (It’s easy to forget that both trailed the Cardinals in the NFC West at the time.) That one felt important. Unfortunately for the home fans, the Seahawks won 19-3 and ate themselves into a post-prandial stupor on the field afterward.
The Seahawks added insult to insult two Sundays ago. The 49ers entered the game 8-0; Seattle was 7-2. The Niners had a chance to assert their dominance in the division, but their mistakes allowed Seattle to escape, 27-24, in an overtime thriller.
So if you’re keeping score at home (or away): The Seahawks have two really big wins at Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers have zero.
This record must be factored into the tarnished reputation of the Levi’s crowd. Before the 49ers found a groove this season, it had become increasingly easy for opposing fans to find affordable tickets for games here. And even when things are going well for the team, the many empty seats on the east side of the stadium are glaring (literally, during afternoon games). Throw in the poor acoustics of the bowl, and Levi’s has become known as an all-too-friendly environment for road teams.
That’s a sharp contrast to Candlestick, which could be cold and dumpy and loud-loud-loud. But can we really blame Levi’s Stadium or the 49ers’ reconfigured fan base for the diminished atmosphere?
In their final year at the ’Stick, the Niners started the season there with a season-opening win against the Green Bay Packers, a reigning division champion, and later added a rugged 19-17 victory against the Seahawks, who would go on to win the Super Bowl. The year before that, the 49ers had finished the regular season by beating Arizona by the bay to clinch the NFC West title, and followed two weeks later with a home playoff win against Green Bay.