SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers were winless on the road in 2018, then the early part of the schedule did them no favors with back-to-back games away from home to open the 2019 season.
But facing winnable games at Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, Weeks 1 and 2 almost set up as benchmarks for what could be expected from the 49ers this season.
The 49ers aced that test, then continued to win.
But at what point did coach Kyle Shanahan know that the 49ers were capable of turning into something special this season?
“I think it was pretty early on, I think it's happened in a number of different times throughout the year,” Shanahan said on Thursday, as the 49ers continued preparations to face the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
Shanahan said there was not one moment when he experienced the epiphany that this season’s club was destined to advanced, at least, into the conference title game.
“There’s so many ebbs and flows throughout a season,” Shanahan said. “I felt after a bye week, going down to L.A. I think it was our fourth game, beating the Rams. I think that was a big one for us.”
The 49ers served notice of their power within the NFC West with the 20-7 victory over the Rams, the two-time reigning division champions, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The 49ers were 5-0 at that point. Then, wins at Washington, against Carolina, and at Arizona moved them to 8-0.
“I'd say it started out probably with the Rams game just because the way the three went before and then having to get over that hump, which we haven't yet,” Shanahan said. “But then it's always when you feel good, there's a number of times during the season you take a step back and then something's got to happen to go forward. That's happened a bunch.”
The 49ers lost in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks at home on Nov. 11, squeaked out a home victory against Arizona when running back Jeff Wilson’s only offensive snap of the game resulted in a game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo in the final minute. The following week, the 49ers demolished the Packers, 37-8, on Nov. 24.
“I thought a huge win was the second Cardinals game where we had to come back at the end and Jeff Wilson made a huge play for us in a two-minute deal that got us the win,” Shanahan said. “And then the way we finished it during the regular season versus Seattle.”
The 49ers wrapped up the NFC West championship and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a 26-21 victory over Seattle in Week 17.