The 49ers have 'momentum'

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

A few thoughts on "momentum" as it pertains to the coming 49ers-Seahawks game.

One really popular sports cliche is: Team X has the momentum. When the game seems to be going a certain team's way, they are said to have momentum. This can occur intra-game ("in the second half, the 49ers had a lot of momentum and that's why they won the game") or inter-game ("the Ravens have dominated their opponents for the last three games by more than 20 points; they are bringing a lot of momentum to their next game").

Recently, the 49ers have had the latter. I've seen countless people mention the current winning streak of the 49ers, subsequently declaring that the Niners have momentum heading into the NFC Championship. What I always wonder is: what does the writer mean by "momentum"?

I get that it's a sports cliche, and thus it doesn't really seem like it needs to be defined. We've all heard it enough to get the sense of what it means. It's surely in the sports zeitgeist. But, one time, I would really like a writer to define their use of momentum.

I don't think many people do, though, because it could literally be defined in hundreds of ways, and it probably wouldn't be accurate unless it took into account those hundreds of aspects. Let us turn to the intra-game example. When a sports writer writes, "in the second half, the 49ers had a lot of momentum and that's why they won," isn't that just an obfuscated way of saying, "in the second half, the 49ers were successful because they controlled the line of scrimmage, they maintained a superior time of possession, Colin Kaepernick accurately threw the ball, Frank Gore had excellent vision, etc."? When a big play "swings" the course of momentum (which seems to me to be inherently contradictory, but whatever), doesn't that provide a whole new opportunity for a team and give them an emotional jolt? Those seem like more concrete and likely explanations than the ambiguous "momentum." When I played high school football (note: high school, so take this anecdote with a grain of salt), we would always review tape on Saturdays, never talking about momentum, but rather about the small elements which helped us control the game rather than see it slip away from us.

But, how does this relate to the 49ers' game against the Seahawks? Well, that has to do more with the inter-game type of momentum. The 49ers, right now, are the "momentum holders" because they have been played well and winning, while the Seahawks have been playing unevenly and winning. And, recently, the 49ers have been winning more. How do we define "momentum" in this circumstance? Well, I think this is a question that is more suited for you all to take up in the comments section since the question is basically asking, "what trends have been occurring in the last 8 games that have been to the 49ers' favor rather than their detriment?" To me, the return of Michael Crabtree has brought a lot of "momentum" to this team. So has the incredible play by the defense.

But how else might we concretely define "momentum" as it pertains to the upcoming game?

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