For the last two seasons, the 49ers have found themselves under .500 through the first seven weeks of the season, both times coming off of a brutal loss with the back stretch of the schedule looming as the calendar gets ready to flip towards November.
Whatever the old adage is about, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” is something these 49ers must have taken to heart, as they have played some of their most inspired football from the month of November on over the last two seasons.
Since the start of the 2021 season, the 49ers are 12-3 in games played in November, December, and January. That includes an undefeated November this season, the first time the 49ers have gone through that month without a loss since the 2012 season, a year that ended with a trip to a memorable Super Bowl, even if the ultimate desired outcome was not achieved.
So what is the magic recipe the 49ers seem to find during this time of the year as intensity turns up with teams around the league locking in on making a run to the postseason? It starts with the identity of this team being rooted in running the football and punishing opposing teams with a consistently diverse ground attack.
In a modern NFL that has gone pass happy, the 49ers have stuck to the timeless principles of gradually wearing their opponents down throughout the game with a rushing attack that is as difficult as any in the league to game plan for.
Last season we saw opposing teams struggle to find a suitable counter for the 49ers' usage of Deebo Samuel in the backfield, which led directly to the 49ers running for over 100 yards in 10 of the final 12 games they played last season.
The 49ers have averaged 122.8 rushing yards per game over the 15 games they’ve played in those months over the last two seasons, forcing teams to match their physicality, which is a tall ask given the toll that is taken physically on a team that has gone through the gauntlet of playing out the majority of an NFL season.
As the weather gets colder, and the hits have piled up, you know, have to worry about being left on an island to bring down a player like Samuel or George Kittle in the open field? The mental stress that puts on an opposing defense is almost as strong as the physical stress can be. It’s directly correlated to the 49ers posting a scoring average that is over 26 points per game during this span.
In a day in age where teams have adapted to the evolution of a game that is now centered around attacking through the air downfield like never before, the 49ers have remained steadfast to their old-school roots with a timeless philosophy that is still the greatest historical indicator of success down the back stretch of an NFL season.
Run the ball efficiently, regularly get after the opposing team's quarterback, and you have a shot against anyone as the stakes turn up as we inch closer to the postseason. The 49ers are capable of doing those two things as well as any team in the league, which is why this trend of winning at a high rate through these months of the season is not one that I see changing any time soon.