Don’t Take it Easy

14 12 2011

Jim Harbaugh and Alex Smith have worked well together so far. Can it last going into the playoffs?

From a quarterback that has suddenly begun to play well after seven years with the team to a coach that almost got in a fist fight with another coach, San Francisco has had one of the most interesting and unexpectedly successful NFL seasons. Let’s just hope a good regular season isn’t the only goal for this team.

The 49ers currently sit at 10-3 with three games left before the playoffs. Quarterback Alex Smith, running back Frank Gore, and wide receiver Michael Crabtree have been the offensive force helping provide points. More significant to their current record, though, has to be the defense. New head coach Jim Harbaugh has instilled a gritty attitude in these men that lead the league in points given up per game (14.0) and opponent rushing yards per game (70.5). Breakout years from cornerback Carlos Rogers and linebacker NaVorro Bowman have also helped solidify this defense. After a 26-0 shutdown of the St. Louis Rams in Week 13, the 49ers locked up a division title and a playoff spot.

Even though grabbing a playoff spot early in the season can provide some comfort and stress-relief, based off this past Sunday, the 49ers need to be careful not to put it in cruise control. If the 49ers want to make some noise this year in the playoffs, a 21-19 loss to a subpar Cardinals team that lost their starting quarterback early on in the game is unacceptable. 

One of the hardest tasks as a head coach in any sport has to be finding the balance between resting players and pushing them forward when regular season games no longer impact whether the team will make the playoffs or not. Watching both the Mavericks and Cowboys crumble in the playoffs after taking it easy to finish the regular season brings me to believe Harbaugh needs to continue to push his players, especially since winning double-digit games is new territory for his young team.

Monday Night will be gut check time for the 49ers as the 10-3 Steelers come into town, who need as many wins as they can get since the Ravens have already beaten them twice and also sit at 10-3. This is why Harbaugh needs to make sure his men stay focused. Other than a Week 6 victory over the Detroit Lions, the NFC West Champions have had a relatively soft schedule, partly because the other three teams in their division – the Seahawks, Cardinals, and Rams – all have losing records. Not only does this squad need a quality win before the season is over so they can get another taste of victory over a team with a winning record, but having two losses in a row at this point would be highly detrimental to the team’s psyche. I believe Harbaugh realizes the importance of Monday’s game and will make sure his players are ready to go. In a season filled with many lackluster Monday Night Football match-ups, this 49ers-Steelers game will surely provide some solid football entertainment.

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One response

19 12 2011
NFL Nutshell: Week 15 « jay's jems

[…] – today will provide NFL fans with a Monday Night Football game that has some significance behind it. Both of these AFC teams sit at 10-3, but are coming from […]

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