By Jerrell Richardson
When this season started, the NFC West was for the 49ers’ taking. A turnaround in 2011 found San Francisco one big play away from a Super Bowl, and being it the perceived-as-inferior NFC West, it seemd there was no real viable threat within the division to stop them from getting back to the playoffs. The year has not gone as planned, and with four games left in the season, the Seattle Seahawks are still nipping at San Francisco’s heels. Seattle finds themselves with a shot to steal the division, which would leave the 49ers in disarray. Don’t expect San Francisco to fold under the pressure, though, as they have come out this week and put an emphasis on finishing strong. It also can’t be forgotten that they are in control of their playoff destiny and ready to win a Super Bowl.
Team Refocused On Stretch Run
The mood in the locker room after Sunday’s defeat to the Rams was frustration mixed with anger. The players knew that they let another opportunity slip through their grasp, and that St. Louis had no right beating them. The only good news is that the loss has refocused the team, and coaches and players this week are putting an emphasis on finishing the season strong.
This week Carlos Rogers was quoted as saying that the team, “Can’t come into the playoffs with losses like we did last week and not hitting on all cylinders.” San Francisco fell victim last year to a New York Giants teamed that turned it on late, and rode their momentum to a Super Bowl victory, so the 49ers know first hand how important the remaining games are for them, as not only do they need momentum at their back, they also need to worry about the surprise Seahawks.
Seattle Is The Unknown
Seattle was given a controversial win over the Green Bay Packers in the last replacement referee-called game, but they gave the 49ers all they could handle earlier this season, and with impressive wins over the Patriots, Cowboys and Vikings (who beat San Francisco), Seattle is legit. With seven wins, Seattle is just one win behind San Francisco. The two teams will meet in Week 16, so the game could loom very large if Seattle does not stumble. Then again, Seattle can lose before then and make the gave irrelevant in regards to playoff implications.
Seattle will play three games within the division and if able to win out, will put a ton of pressure on San Francisco, who have to play the Patriots at New England the week before meeting the Seahawks. Although both games will not be easy, the 49ers could not ask for more down the stretch. They are essentially in a playoff atmosphere now, and will be facing back-to-back games on the road that will test them. This is football, and the path to a Super Bowl is expected to be bumpy, so this is just par for the course. If the 49ers are an elite team, then they should have no problem holding onto the division. If they stumble down the stretch and are unable to hold off the Seahawks, it would not be a recipe for success in the postseason. If they can win out, or at least string together solid wins, then they will end the regular season heading in the right direction and be in a better position to improve on last year’s success.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.