LOS ANGELES (CBS SF) -- It was a moment safety Jaquiski Tartt had prepared for his entire life -- an interception that could lead his team to the Super Bowl. Instead, with the 49ers leading the Los Angeles Rams 17-14 in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, the ball slipped out of his hands and fell harmlessly to the ground.
The Rams would drive for a game-tying field goal and then clinch the title 20-17 when a Matt Gay's kick sailed through the uprights from 30 yards with 1:46 to play.
To his credit, Tartt publicly addressed the play. On Twitter, he spoke out to 49ers fans.
"No excuses!! I deserve all the criticism my way! Opportunity I dream of I came up short!!! Let my brothers down!! It Still won't define me as a person/player. Only will get stronger and better."
And then he met with reporters.
"For me, it's tough," Tartt said of the missed opportunity. "A lot of athletes dream of just being in this moment, tie ball game, you can make that game-changing play. And for me, that's something I was thinking about all week. 'I know I can make that play.' And when the play came up, I didn't make it."
"I know that was a big play of the game, a big opportunity for me, and for the team, and as a player, I just feel like I let my brothers down. But for us, we didn't play like we needed to play. We left a lot of [plays] on the [field], and obviously, my play was a crucial one that I left on the field. I really wish I could have it back but at the end of the day ... take your hat off for the Rams. They came in and did what they had to do."
49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan called it one of the three plays the game pivoted on, but also showed support for Tartt.
"Tartt has done a lot of good things," Shanahan said. "I thought he was one of the best players on the field last week versus Green Bay. I've loved him being on our team here since I've been here. I know he's disappointed in that drop that he had but there's a lot of other plays in the game. I'm very happy that Tartt was on our team this year."
On social media there was a tidal wave of support from 49ers fans.
"Accountability plus the will to get better and not let it define you is a beautiful thing," Coach China posted.
"The accountability is admirable, because in truth, he DID NOT let the team down. He's about all the right things, and a big part of why we made it this far. Came up short, as a TEAM," Danny G posted.
"Friendly reminder that athletes are people before they are athletes. Don't be the reason an athlete feels inhuman," Welly posted.
But for Tartt, the play with be a lasting, haunting memory.
"For me, it's a moment of truth," Tartt said. "A moment of truth showed, and I didn't step up."
for more features.