It was a regular season for the San Francisco 49ers to remember as they finished with the second-most points scored and second-most total yards in regular season history. Only the 1994 Super Bowl-winning team scored more points — featuring offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan — while the ‘98 squad gained 27 more yards.
The 49ers put pressure on their opponent from the second the offense stepped on the field. San Francisco scored an NFL-high 76 points on opening possessions his season. That’s an NFL record, and the most any team has scored on their first drive since the NFL switched to a 17-game regular season.
Those early points will come in handy in the playoffs. Building an early lead and making your opponent feel like they have to score has worked all season for the Niners. It’s also why there’s little reason to be worried about Jake Moody as the kicker.
Yes, playoff games are generally one possession. But this year is an outlier. We haven’t seen an offense as potent as the 49ers since those 90s teams. San Francisco averaged more touchdowns, yards, and points and had overall success on a per-drive basis than any team in the NFL.
Some have said that it’s naive to think these playoff games won’t come down to a Moody kick, but I’m more inclined to believe the 17 data points where few teams showed the ability to stop the Niners. It’s naive to think things will be different in the postseason.
Not only can the 49ers light the scoreboard up, but they can make you one-dimensional. Even as offenses continue to score more, the game remains unchanged. You must run the football and stop the run.
The Niners ran for 125 yards against the Rams yesterday without two of their top running threats. Since Week 10, no team ran the ball better down-to-down than the 49ers. Their success rate was five percentage points higher than the Baltimore Ravens at 50.6 percent, which is well above the league average.
On the other side of the ball, and here’s where those early points come in handy, the 49ers’ defense has held opposing offenses without a 100-yard individual rusher in 44 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL and the second-longest streak since 2000.
There isn’t a surprising outcome in the Wild Card round. Nobody would raise an eyebrow if the Niners faced Jordan Love or Jalen Hurts in the Divisional. The one concern would be containing mobile quarterbacks.
Hurts, who left Sunday with a finger injury but X-rays showed no fracture, hasn’t been the same runner since Nick Bosa said the Niners put out the “blueprint” to slow him down. Aside from an 82-yard rushing performance against Seattle in Week 15, the Eagles quarterback has been held under 34 rushing yards in every contest. Hurts is by far the most dangerous threat at quarterback as a runner.
The path to the Super Bowl isn’t complicated for the 49ers. Score early, stop the run, and force teams to throw it on your defense that finished fourth in passing DVOA with a rested defensive line.
More than any other Shanahan-led team, this version of the 49ers has the answers and weapons on offense to go score for score with anybody. There’s plenty of reason for optimism heading into the playoffs.