There was a point this season where the Niners were 3-5, and they were embarrassed by the Arizona Cardinals and their backup quarterback at home. The playoffs seemed eons away.
The walls around this team seemed to crumble.
After six games and five wins, the Niners are on the verge of making the playoffs. They could be with weeks to play. And given that they have two important tiebreakers, it would be surprising if they don’t qualify for the postseason.
As 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said after his 31-13 win over the Falcons, “It’s been a long season.”
The way the Niners are playing now, they have a chance to prolong the season.
The 49ers made a statement on Sunday. His sweeping victory over a lousy team told the rest of the NFL they were a team for this winter.
And in an NFC where there doesn’t seem to be a major team, the 49ers are rightly asking why they can’t make some noise in a three-week tournament.
“I think we’re peaking at a good time,” Niners fullback Kyle Juszcic, who had a speedy touchdown on Sunday, said after the win over Atlanta. “Let me preface this by saying that we’re definitely not playing as well as we could have… but I think we’re playing some good ball right now. We’re going to have a staggering few weeks.”
These Niners have graduated back to where they thought they’d always be this season—they’re now legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Leading the way has been the crime of the Niners, who have found a rhythm and balance. They’ve been raising the yards per play leaderboard over the past few weeks. Jimmy Garoppolo is playing his best football since 2019. George Kittel, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Ayuk have been downright vulnerable in the passing game and have inflicted more damage on defenders than they did.
Overall, the Niners are a physical bunch with a wonderfully aggressive play-collar that can make for massive passing windows and a great stability for running one-on-one situations.
The Add in a Niners defense has enough playmakers—arguably the best defender, defensive end Nick Bosa in the NFL this season—and San Francisco shouldn’t find itself getting burned. Sunday provided a good example of this: The Niners’ defense led by Fred Warner stunned Atlanta on three separate fourth-down attempts.
This is the kind of football that is built to win this part of the regular season. This is the kind of football that saw the Niners roll over two of their opponents in the 2019 NFC Playoffs.
Now, this Niners team is not nearly as talented or powerful as the 2019 squad. To start with the differences, San Francisco is likely to play three road games to make it to the Super Bowl in Los Angeles in February – not two home competitions.
Still, if this offense can remain fault-free, he has enough talent to put four touchdowns on the board every game while controlling the clock and the tenure of the competition.
A lot depends on Garoppolo continuing to play well. Atlanta wasn’t going to be the team that hooked him on—he didn’t need more than one read on Sunday to feature big plays.
Still, there is no doubt that he has been more prudent and precise with his passes lately. The Niners’ offensive line deserves a ton of credit—it’s a boon for arguably the most talented player in the NFL, left Trent Williams, guarding his blind side—but Garoppolo has undeniably upped his game. .
I keep my eye on people who think “what he does is win” is good analysis. Jared Goff and Case Keenum have won a lot of games when they had good teams – not when they didn’t.
But there’s something to be said about No. 10’s ability to improve his game, get into the field. His leadership ability on the field was never questioned.
Maybe that’s why he’s been making money playing scenarios late in his career. He seems to have been harnessing that energy for the entire game of late.
Juszczyk joked that he noticed a different “aura” around Garoppolo at breakfast on Sunday.
“You can feel it from him,” Fullback said. “George [Kittle] And I looked at each other and said ‘Jimmy is ready to go today’… it’s contagious.”
“Jimmy will take us as far as we’re going.”
This means the Niners could be burned by Garoppolo, whose game, overall, is not without proper distraction. He’s still the same quarterback, and the right defense can land him in a slump.
The Niners’ disappointing game could also be the downfall of this team. Oh my god, they’re playing a dangerous game outside.
Or maybe the Special Party will be their downfall – they’ve been embarrassing lately.
But with three games left in the season and eight wins already to their name, the Niners are effectively playing with a huge pile of chips. A good place for a front-running team.
Another win – in Nashville on Thursday, January 2 versus the Texans at home, or, heaven forbid it comes down to it, in the regular season finale against the Rams in Los Angeles, and the Niners are in the playoffs. The right defeat to the right teams can also negate the need for that win.
However, the Niners’ focus shouldn’t be on winning to make it postseason.
No, the clinching and seeding will take care of themselves if the Niners keep trying to build the momentum behind this brand of football.
Most of the season, it is the hottest team to win the conference.
In this wild NFL season of incredible resemblance, there’s no question that the same will happen this post season.
And the way these Niners are playing – flaws and all – if they can keep it up, they have the same shot as the one coming in January.