As the saying goes, “life comes at you pretty fast.” In the NFL, it’s even faster. A week ago, the 49ers were lifeless and coming off their fourth straight defeat. Seven days later, they’re fresh off a win that didn’t feature a turnover or a punt, many of the immediate teams around them in the playoff picture lost in Week 8, and their next opponent may be missing their two best offensive players. So there is hope again in San Francisco. But hope alone won’t get it done. In today’s 49ers in Five podcast, we examined the fork in the road facing the 49ers.
At 3-4, obviously, every game is critical. With two superior divisional opponents in back-to-back weeks, the games become monumental. Victories in both give the team a winning record overall, a winning record in the conference, and a winning record in the division - all crucial factors in playoff tiebreakers. Conversely, losses in both games will pretty much put the nail in the coffin of the 2021 season unless something truly bizarre happens down the road.
“Yeah, every week going forward is big now, especially with the little hole that we put ourselves in,” Jimmy Garoppolo said yesterday, “So that’ll be a challenge. It really will be. I mean, there’s some good teams right now, good teams in the league, good teams in our division too. So it will be a challenge for us. But you know, that’s the NFL man. It’s every week is tough. It’s going to challenge you in different ways, and just it’s how many times can you keep coming back and answering the bell like that.”
While it’s nice to see Jimmy acknowledge the importance of the next two weeks, that quote doesn’t exactly make me want to run through a wall. Whether it’s Garoppolo or Kyle Shanahan, or really any of the current 49ers, there’s always a very business-like demeanor coming from the team. The 49ers of the nineties had that same even-keeled personality. The problem is, that’s more useful when you have an established culture of success and victory. The Kyle Shanahan San Francisco 49ers do not have that. They would do well to show a little urgency before the two biggest games of the season.
Hopefully, George Kittle can give the team a shot in the arm coming back from his calf injury. Multiple players talked about the importance of the energy he brings to the team, and that intensity could be exactly what they need to pull off two straight upsets (Kyler Murray not playing would be a big help, too).
A split in the next two games isn’t going to end the season, but at some point, the 49ers will have to step up and beat some good teams instead of just kicking the can down the road. So why not start on Sunday?