Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is tackled by 49ers linebacker Travis LaBoy.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is tackled by 49ers linebacker Travis LaBoy.

Play-offs no longer fantasy for 49ers

After a 0-5 start, the San Francisco side is on a roll towards post-season. No NFL team has done it but the play-offs are now a distinct possibility.

SAN FRANCISCO // When Jed York, the San Francisco 49ers president, declared his team would still make the play-offs despite their 0-5 start, plenty of people questioned his sanity.

No NFL team has ever done it, though the San Diego Chargers bounced back after losing their first four games to finish 11-5 and win the division.

Suddenly, the play-offs are still a distinct possibility for San Francisco.

The 49ers (5-8) are just one game behind joint-leaders Seattle and St Louis in the NFC West ahead of tomorrow night's game at San Diego.

"We're one game out of first," Travis LaBoy, the linebacker, said. "All we can do is focus on the next game and try to keep knocking down the Ws. Hopefully we can get some help down the road from other teams losing and rewriting that play-off picture."

San Francisco staved off elimination with a commanding 40-21 win over the Seahawks on Sunday - and probably helped their coach Mike Singletary's job status, too.

If they somehow find a way to win out - including getting an away victory over the Rams on December 26 - and Seattle loses one of their remaining three fixtures, the 49ers would capture their first West title since 2002 and end a seven-year play-off drought.

The 49ers are not kidding themselves, though: this is quite a task to pull off. Singletary was as subdued as ever for his regular Monday news conference, insisting it was because he does not have much time to prepare for the Chargers.

Singletary did not have much time to enjoy Sunday's lopsided win.

"What we saw [on Sunday] was just a good indication of the growing pains of this team and getting to the place where you understand that you go out, you play the game, you do what you're coached to do," Singletary said.

"You don't press things and let the game come to you and just be true and honest to the game and things will work out on both sides of the ball."

On offence, the 49ers will stick with Alex Smith at quarterback. On Sunday, the 2005 No 1 overall draft pick returned to the starting line-up after a five-game absence - part of which he spent recovering from a separated shoulder on his non-throwing left arm.

He played one of his best games, with a career-high 130.9 quarterback rating.

Smith will become a free agent at the end of the season and almost certainly will go elsewhere in 2011.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't there. No question it's in the back of my head," Smith said. "I know that right now, at the end of the season, yes, the contract is up. But, with that said, I'm determined to stay in the moment, determined just to focus on this one game, not to take anything for granted."

Still, everything that went right on Sunday will mean little if the 49ers do not keep winning.

What has changed for the 49ers of late after that awful start?

"Just our chemistry, we're playing together," Vernon Davis, the tight end, said.

"We are starting to believe and we know how critical it is now when it's right there in front of us. We just have to go get it."

Davis and the 49ers were the preseason favourites to win the NFC West, but that quickly changed with the winless start.

At 8-8 last season, San Francisco ended a franchise-worst stretch of six consecutive losing seasons.

These 49ers could wind up 7-9 and in a three-way tie and still win the division.

Despite the record, that would be progress in the eyes of York and the rest of the San Francisco hierarchy.

 

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Manager Matt Williams benching star Bryce Harper, above, may have sent the wrong message to the rest of the Washington Nationals. Mike Ehrmann / AFP

Benching Harper sends Williams’s right message the wrong way

Matt Williams, the Washington Nationals manager, made the biggest move of his 18-game tenure on Saturday, benching rising star Bryce Harper for his “lack of hustle”.

 Players such as George Springer are a sign that things are starting to swing in the Houston Astros' favour. But more help is needed. Scott Halleran / AFP

Houston Astros are still earth-bound but help is on the way

As harbingers of a new era go, the Houston Astros could have done worse than misspelling their new phenom’s name on his major-league debut.

 Luis Suarez became the first Liverpool player to score 30 Premier League goals in a season since Ian Rush in 1987. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Sterling and Suarez inpire Liverpool to win over Norwich City

The win takes the Premier League table-toppers to 80 points from 35 games.

 Arsenal's Lukas Podolski celebrates his second goal during the Premier League match against Hull City at The KC Stadium in Hull, England, on April 20, 2014. Lynne Cameron / AP Photo

Arsenal maintain push for top-four finish with victory at Hull

Hull could end up in Europe regardless of the FA Cup final result if Arsenal finish in the Uefa Champions League places

 Ashish Nehra of Chennai Super Kings bowls to Kings XI Punjab at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Hard-hitting Chennai not deterred by opening loss in IPL

But some questions remain about the team's attack ahead of Monday's match against Delhi Daredevils in Abu Dhabi, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 Stanislas Wawrinka turned away fellow Swiss Roger Federer with a 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 victory at the Monte Carlo Masters on April 20, 2014. Julian Finney / Getty Images

Wawrinka backhands Federer aside at Monte Carlo Masters

Stanislas Wawrinka won the Monte Carlo Masters for the first time after rallying to beat Roger Federer 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 in a rare all-Swiss final.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National