The landscape of the entire NFL changes week to week, but no team seems to have undergone as radical a transformation in the past 14 days as the San Francisco 49ers. After their worst performance of the season against the Cardinals, the team has responded with two of their best performances. During his conference call with reporters on Monday, Kyle Shanahan was asked a simple question. How?
“I just think we’ve all gotten a little bit better in what we’re doing. It’s not much of a new way that we’ve been going about it. I think we’ve just been doing it at a consistent, higher level. When we haven’t ran the ball as well, which we haven’t, yesterday at times and verse the Rams. But we’ve been able to move the chains on third down, which allows you to keep smashing the ball as you say and playing smash-mouth football. But it’s not like we’re just gashing people in the run game. We’re finding a way to stay out there. Whether it’s been the run or the pass game. And I think at the same time, our defenses have been stopping guys at a higher level. I also think we’ve gotten turnovers on special teams and defense. And it also has been very big that these last couple of weeks our offense hasn’t turned the ball over at all either. So when you do all that stuff, you do get a lot more plays, a lot more drives and that helps everybody. Coaches and players get in a better rhythm.”
As I said in today’s 49ers in Five podcast, that’s probably the most surprising aspect of the 49ers’ recent turnaround. They haven’t just improved one thing, they’re improved all of the things. If the offense stopped turning the ball over but the defense continued to miss tackles, the team would improve, but only marginally so. By the same token, if the defense stopped getting dumb pass interference penalties while the offense was still floundering on third downs, there’s no way they win two straight games.
Instead, every problem area of the team has improved at exactly the same time. The result has been dominance in almost every facet of the game. Is this likely to continue for the rest of the season? Absolutely not. As I said, the league changes week to week, but it’s important for the 49ers to stack as many wins as they can while they’re in this zone - especially against the Vikings this week.
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