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Gold Standard: The 49ers can send a message starting this week

Two straight games in prime time will set the narrative

“Some people get better when the lights are on,” Kyle Shanahan said in August, “And some get worse.” The lights will be on the 49ers for the next two weeks because of games on Sunday and Monday Night Football. With the team in the spotlight, they have a real opportunity to make a statement to the rest of the NFL: The bully is back.

As noted on today’s Gold Standard podcast, the one thing that the season-ending injury to Trey Lance has brought is clarity. There’s no more back and forth about Trey and Jimmy, no more debates about who should start, and no more speculation about which quarterback would have done what in a given scenario. Oddly, things have stabilized for the team (at least momentarily), and that should put the fear of God into the rest of the NFL.

Under Trey Lance, the offense was choppy and uneven. In short, it looked like it was being run by someone starting consecutive games for the first time in over 1,000 days. While the ceiling may have been high, that choppiness also created an air of vulnerability around the team. Jimmy Garoppolo has proven he can generally keep things running on schedule when given a little help.

The real opportunity rests in the hands of the defense, which has gone virtually unnoticed outside of San Francisco through two weeks. As Jordan Elliott explained, it doesn’t get much better on the defensive side of the ball than what we’ve seen. What separates this year’s squad, however, is game-changing plays.

As Vish Kumaran noted on Twitter, even with a top-five defense over the last two years, the Niners ranked 20th and 21st in takeaways per game. Those previous defenses obviously helped the offense, but they couldn’t give it a shot in the arm by generating turnovers. This year, they have four turnovers in two games. In 2021, the 49ers didn’t notch their fourth takeaway until the November 15th Monday Night Football game against the Rams in Week 10.

The world will be watching on Sunday Night Football this week and Monday Night Football in Week 4 to see if the 49ers look like the same team that went to the NFC Championship Game last season. Wins against their arch nemesis Russell Wilson and the defending Super Bowl champion Rams will go a long way towards proving just that.

Other topics in today’s show

  • Don’t blame Kyle Shanahan for Trey Lance’s injury (1:27)
  • One piece of good news about Lance’s injury (6:08)
  • This is a good time to be playing the Broncos (16:40)
  • Give Kyle Shanahan credit for fixing some issues from Week 1 (18:40)
  • Russell Wilson’s weakness this year (22:28)
  • The Niners rush defense isn’t getting enough credit (24:15)
  • There is no Jimmy G. 2.0 waiting to be unlocked (27:47)
  • This is a chance for the team to make a statement (29:31)
  • What would feel better: Beating Seattle or beating Russ? (36:13)
  • Are we changing the clocks this year? (36:13)
  • Score prediction (41:58)