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49ers' win vs. Rams paints bigger picture of playoff chances

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Jimmy Garoppolo

Even though nobody had seen it, per se, we all knew this 49ers team was capable of something like this.

But we continued to doubt because after eight games, they had not shown it.

They would never admit it, but the 49ers had to be questioning themselves, too.

Coach Kyle Shanahan might have crafted some intelligent game plans over the first two months of the season, but they were not carried out with the near-perfection of the 49ers’ 31-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night.

Shanahan got on a roll as a play-caller because the offense repeatedly picked up the necessary yardage on key plays to keep drives alive.

It is difficult to find a rhythm when drives abruptly end due to turnovers, penalties and failed third downs. The 49ers' victory over the Rams demonstrated how close they are to being a playoff team.

It showed how far away they are, too.

This is the kind of victory that should not be considered an anomaly for this team.

Let's look ahead on the 49ers’ schedule: Week 12 against the playoff-contending Minnesota Vikings, and Week 13 at the staggering Seattle Seahawks.

Those are big games, for sure.

But if the 49ers look ahead -- or play as if they’re looking ahead -- to those games, they stand the chance of ruining everything good that came from their first victory at Levi’s Stadium in more than a year.


First, the 49ers on a short week travel across the country to face the Jacksonville Jaguars.

If they play anywhere close to their performance against the Rams, the 49ers should have the game comfortably in hand entering the fourth quarter.

Shanahan spoke a week ago about the importance of having their “A” players producing at consistently high levels.

If George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, Nick Bosa, Fred Warner and Jimmie Ward make difference-making plays, the rest of the team will come along.

Perhaps, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo deserves a spot in that group, too.

Shanahan has not wavered in his short-term support of Garoppolo even when it became uncomfortable -- and wholly unpopular -- for him to do so.

After the miserable game in inclement conditions against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7, Garoppolo was likely running out of chances.

But he came back strong with three of his better games in succession.

Over the past three games, Garoppolo completed 60 of 87 attempts (69 percent) for 830 yards. He threw four TDs (and rushed for two) with one interception and a passer rating of 109.8.

A game such as Monday night draws the conversation away from the Year 1 contributions of the rookie class, especially backup quarterback Trey Lance.

Shanahan and general manager John Lynch opted to retain Garoppolo and his high price tag for another season because they believed it would help the 49ers on multiple levels.

Garoppolo has been in the organization since the mid-point of the 2017 season, and Shanahan believes Garoppolo gives the best chance to win now.

The longer the 49ers can hold off from making the permanent switch gives Lance the best chance to experience immediate success when he takes over.

There will be a time when Lance takes over. But as long as the 49ers are in contention, that time likely will not come this season.

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That plan is open to debate and criticism when the 49ers are failing to consistently win games.

But when the plan works on a micro level as it did Monday night, it is easier to understand the logic behind the bigger picture.

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