SANTA CLARA, Calif. – For a franchise that has had little success the past few seasons, the San Francisco 49ers are sure taking their fast start this season in stride.
The Niners have won their first five games for the first time in 29 years and are one of two remaining undefeated teams in the NFL along with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
“It’s cool to be 5-0. But I know it’s nothing,” safety Jimmie Ward said Wednesday. “I’ve been through seasons, I’ve been through injuries, so I know 5-0 is not where I want to be at. It’s cool. It’s impressive I guess for the people outside in the world. Inside this locker room, it’s nothing; 5-0 doesn’t get you anything, 5-0 doesn’t get you a ring.”
But 5-0 is a dramatic turnaround from where this franchise has been. Since making it to three straight NFC championship games and one Super Bowl from 2011 to 2013 under coach Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco hasn’t had a winning record.
The 49ers went 8-8 in Harbaugh’s final season in 2014 and have fallen even further since he was forced out after that season. The team won five games in Jim Tomsula’s only season as coach in 2015, went 2-14 the following year under Chip Kelly and then posted a combined 10-22 record in the first two seasons under coach Kyle Shanahan.
Now with a vastly improved defense fortified by edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford and an offense that features a dynamic running game to go along with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, the Niners once again look like contenders in the NFC.
The defense is the tops in the league against the pass and second overall in terms of scoring and total defense. The running game is the second most productive and San Francisco is outscoring opponents by 16.6 points per game, second best in the league.
“Things are trending in the right direction,” Garoppolo said. “I think as an offense you try to assess yourself week to week after the game, what you did good, what you did bad and try to improve those things going forward and not really have any weaknesses. So, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
San Francisco is coming off perhaps its most impressive seven-day stretch in years, having beaten Cleveland 31-3 at home on “Monday Night Football” on Oct. 7 and then following it up six days later with a 20-7 win in Los Angeles against the defending NFC champion Rams. San Francisco allowed only 157 yards against LA.
Despite that recent success, Shanahan spent part of the film session before practice Wednesday showing some of the bad plays against the Rams in an effort to keep his players grounded.
“I did it today because I showed a lot of good things Monday,” he said. “We enjoyed the win and there were a lot of good things. But you can watch that in a different light and find a lot of bad things, too. It’s nice when people tell you how good you are and stuff. It makes people, all human beings, feel better. Those are also the same people who will tell you how bad you are if the ball bounces the wrong way. You can watch that game in a different light and see it’s three plays away from getting out of hand going the other way. So you always want to put that perspective back in the players’ minds so you never relax. If you relax in this league, you’ll be humbled.”
NOTES: TE George Kittle (groin), DT DJ Jones (hamstring), WR Deebo Samuel (groin), DL DeForest Buckner (rest) and RB Raheem Mostert (knee) didn’t practice. … Tackles Joe Staley (leg) and Mike McGlinchey (knee) worked out on a side field rehabbing their injuries. … The Niners signed WR Deontay Burnett to the practice squad and released WR Malik Henry from the practice squad.
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