SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers have raced out to a 6-0 record by beating just one team without a losing record. The task gets extremely more difficult starting this week as the next seven games for the 49ers are all against teams that are .500 or better.
So the 49ers know they must play even better if they want to maintain this level of success, starting with this week’s home game against Carolina (4-2).
“You have to regardless of who you’re playing,” coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday. “I mean, you get better or you get worse, you don’t stay the same. As this year goes, it gets harder and harder and we’ve got to make sure as it gets harder we have to get better if we want to meet our own expectations.”
It was hard to judge how well the Niners played on Sunday, when they beat an overmatched Washington team 9-0 on a rainy day that made it difficult for quarterbacks to throw the ball and for anyone to keep their footing.
But they managed to do enough to come out with another win even if it wasn’t a masterpiece.
“The scheme and game plan and stuff for both sides kind of just completely goes out and you just, you watch the effort, and just the guys trying to grind it out through some pretty bad, it was as bad of conditions as I’ve been in,” Shanahan said. “I’ve been in some colder games, some snow games and stuff, but none that have just really rained that much from beginning to end, especially on that type of field. You just evaluate the effort, how hard guys played.”
The 49ers’ pass defense was once again the dominant unit. San Francisco held Case Keenum to just nine completions and 77 total yards through the air and had three sacks for 27 yards. This marked the second straight game that the Niners have allowed 50 or fewer net yards passing, the first team since Minnesota in 1988 to do that in back-to-back games.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
While the rain helped the pass defense, it made it hard for Jimmy Garoppolo to throw the ball consistently. Garoppolo finished just 12 for 21 for 151 yards with an interception on a fourth-down pass in the third quarter. Garoppolo has now gone back-to-back games without a TD pass had has only seven touchdown passes on the season compared with six interceptions.
WR Kendrick Bourne. The Niners have the fewest receptions from their wide receivers in the NFL this season with just 49. So it was a positive sign that Bourne made a solid contribution. He had three catches for 69 yards after entering the game with just six catches for 70 yards the first five games.
K Robbie Gould. Gould missed a 45-yard field goal try in the second quarter, his career-high seventh miss already this season. Gould is the second kicker to miss at least seven field goals in the past 25 years, joining Sebastian Janikowski in 2000. Making matters worse is the fact that Gould was given a four-year, $19 million contract with $10.5 million guaranteed this summer after skipping the offseason program in a contract dispute.
Left tackle Joe Staley is expected to practice this week for the first time since breaking a bone in his leg in Week 2. There’s an outside chance he can play this week, but could be an option Oct. 31 against Arizona. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon had a minor setback in his recovery from a foot injury last week and might need to miss another game.
64. The Niners have allowed just 64 points, the second fewest after six games in franchise history to the 63 given up in 1976. San Francisco has also held three straight opponents to seven or fewer points and less than 200 yards. They are the sixth team to do that since 1990, joining Pittsburgh (1990), New Orleans (1991), Baltimore (2000), Tennessee (2000) and New England (2005).
The 49ers return home to take on the rested Carolina Panthers, who won their past four games before an off week.