For winning 49ers, issue isn’t who’s not starting but who is
The beginning of the game was full of warnings on TV. “Not starting today,” said the note under the picture, then it listed players — Nick Bosa and Jimmy Garoppolo prominent among them — and their injuries.
Negative information, the sort that football coaches try to dismiss.
The sort that good teams overcome. And yes, as they verified Sunday, the 49ers are a good team.
How good we never may know, given all those injuries, but good enough to beat the New York Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, as they were good enough to defeat the New York Jets a week earlier at MetLife.
The Niners defeated the Giants, 36-9. Make that overwhelmed the Giants. The longer the game went, the more one-sided it became, also an indication of San Francisco’s strength and attitude.
This is not to compare these Niners with those of the 1980s, the teams that made history and won Super Bowls, but there seems to be a similar quality — resilience.
Nothing affected those Niners, injuries, travel, bad calls. They just took the field and won with a joyful arrogance.
Which exactly is what the Niners of 2020 did Sunday.
”I’m very happy the way we played,“ said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “This week and last.”
He ought to be, and the 49ers should be happy with Shanahan, who as a proper leader has his team looking to succeed rather than looking for excuses.
The New York Giants, true, are not among the top teams in the NFL. But they were at home, on that sticky artificial turf that eight days previously may have at least in part been responsible for some of those of the Niners injuries, Bosa’s season-ending ACL tear, Solomon Thomas’ ACL tear.
“Woe is us” gloom descended on Niner fans. "There goes the season," was the feeling in The City and environs. What went on Sunday were the Niners. Mainly because the Giants couldn’t go.
In football, if you can’t win the game the key is not to lose it. Not to screw up. Not to turn over the football (as did the Giants, with a Daniel Jones fumble and a Jones interception by Fred Warmer).
Not to allow the opponent to control the ball (the 49ers virtually had twice the possession time, 39 minutes 44 seconds to 20:16) as did New York.
The fact that Nick Mullens took over for Garoppolo, who has a high-ankle sprain, threw for 343 yards and a touchdown didn’t hurt a bit.
"Nick was great, very poised," Shanahan said of Mullens, who was 25 of 36. "We went on a lot of long drives today. They’re better than not scoring, but long drives can get a little bit exhausting. Especially for me. I don't want to have to call that many plays."
O, the agonies of being a head coach.
The Niners lost their season-opening game, at home, with Bosa et al still on the field, and immediately there was among certain individuals — not players or coaches, of course — a feeling of regret.
This could be a Super Bowl hangover (after a Super Bowl defeat, no less) and other teams in the division, notably the Rams, were much improved. After that came the thundering injuries.
Now, consecutive victories on the road and home games against the Eagles and Dolphins provide a degree of relief, along with the relief that Mullens provided.
“We have real good players,” reminded Mullens, who is one of them. “I’m not the fastest or most athletic guy, but I think I react pretty quick.”
So does Niners management act quickly drafting and signing athletes who fit the system installed by Shanahan and his assistants.
For the Niners, it’s not an issue of who’s not starting but who is.