49ers

NFL playoff scenarios: Why 49ers would rather not clinch spot in Week 14

NFL playoff scenarios: Why 49ers would rather not clinch spot in Week 14

The 49ers can clinch an NFC playoff spot on Sunday with a victory over the New Orleans Saints.

But the 49ers and their fans will be rooting against the other part of the scenario in which the organization can officially guarantee a playoff berth for the first time since the 2013 season.

If the 49ers (10-2) win at the Saints (10-2), they need a Los Angeles Rams loss or tie to break their playoff drought by the end of Week 14.

However, because the Rams (7-5) are playing the Seattle Seahawks (10-2), it is a greater benefit to the 49ers if the Rams can knock off the Seahawks on "Sunday Night Football." (The perfect scenario for the 49ers would probably be a Rams-Seahawks tie, but that might be a little too far-fetched, since there has been only one tie game in the NFL this season.)

With the 49ers’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13 and the Seahawks’ win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Seahawks moved into the top spot in the NFC West standings based on their head-to-head win at Levi’s Stadium on Nov. 11. The Seahawks beat the 49ers, 27-24, in overtime.

The 49ers’ remaining games after Week 14 are at Levi’s Stadium against Atlanta and the Rams, and at Seattle. Remaining on the Seahawks’ schedule after this week are games at Carolina, and at home against Arizona and the 49ers.

[RELATED: Hall of Fame semifinalist Bryant Young loves watching 49ers this season]

The 49ers have reason for optimism that the two-time defending NFC West champion Rams can defeat the Seahawks on Sunday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Seattle held on to a 30-29 home victory on Oct. 3, when Los Angeles kicker Greg Zuerlein missed wide right on a 44-yard field-goal attempt with 15 seconds remaining in the game.

The Saints, who have already sewn up the NFC South, are the only team in the NFC to wrap up a playoff spot. The Saints, 49ers and Seahawks are battling for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Chiefs' Eric Bieniemy indentifies 'heart and soul' of 49ers' defense

Chiefs' Eric Bieniemy indentifies 'heart and soul' of 49ers' defense

The Kansas City Chiefs offense is stacked. They have an elite quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and a track team of receivers in Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman and Travis Kelce, the best tight end east of George Kittle.

They shouldn’t fear anybody. Not with that lineup. They do have great respect for the 49ers defense, its ferocious front in particular.

That’s an appropriate stance. The 49ers might have the NFL’s best defensive line, featuring Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Dee Ford and Arik Armstead.

The 49ers have the league’s best pass defense and ranked fifth with 48 sacks during the regular season. They have nine more this postseason, largely by taking opponents off schedule and setting up favorable pass-rush situations.

All that’s why the Chiefs attack versus the 49ers defense is strength on strength. Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy understands that and identifies what makes the 49ers go.

“They are fast, and they do a great job of rushing the passer,” Bieniemy said in his Thursday press conference. “They have some big boys up front. That’s the heart and soul of who they are. I’m not knocking anybody on that defense because everything starts up front. It’s just like on offense. We want our guys to be the heart and soul of who we are.

"Well, the heart and soul of that defense lies up front. Those guys do a great job of getting off the ball. On top of that, they have a couple of backers who just fly around. On the back end, those guys are playing very, very sound, with one hell of a leader in Richard Sherman.”

[RELATED: 49ers' Robert Saleh details what makes Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes elite]

The 49ers have linebacker depth and legit players in a secondary that plays its coverages well. It’s a complete unit that has earned Kanas City’s respect.

“Obviously they have a ton of playmakers on the defense with the defensive line, linebackers and in the secondary,” Mahomes said. “They have guys that have experience and they have young guys that are super talented and so you can see that the young guys have really grown as the season has gone on and they have learned from other guys around. They’re very sound in what they do and in the coverages that they play. For us, it’s about executing at a high level and knowing it’s going to be a challenge every single play.”

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).

Jimmy Garoppolo's first encounter with Patrick Mahomes left impression

Jimmy Garoppolo's first encounter with Patrick Mahomes left impression

SANTA CLARA -- In Week 3 of the 2018 season, the Chiefs beat the 49ers 38-27, but more important than the loss alone, the trajectory of the losing club was changed forever. 
 
Late in the fourth quarter, down by 12 points, Jimmy Garoppolo faced a third-and-20 situation. The quarterback scrambled for 13 yards and in the process tore his ACL, ending his season. 

There were several impressions made on Garoppolo from the experience but one of the positives was his first interaction with Patrick Mahomes. After the game, Garoppolo was on a cart in the tunnels of Arrowhead Stadium and the Chiefs quarterback sought out Garoppolo to wish him luck in his recovery. 

It’s a moment that Garoppolo was asked if he still recalled. 

“Absolutely,” Garoppolo said. “I didn’t even know Pat at the time. For him to come out of his way after the game and wish me luck and everything, just a real class act. The guy is awesome, on the field, off the field, he does it all.”  

The 49ers went on to finish the 2018 season with a disappointing 4-12 record but an argument could be made that there was a huge positive from those results. The 49ers, in turn, had the second pick in the 2019 NFL draft and were able to select Nick Bosa. 

The addition of the Ohio State product, as well as free agent Dee Ford, has added speed to the defensive line. Those two, among other key additions, helped the team to a 13-3 regular season. Subsequently, the club is now preparing for Super Bowl LIV to face off with Chiefs once again, but this time for all the marbles. 

[RELATED: McGlinchey calls out Jimmy G naysayers]

The two quarterbacks have not had the chance to interact since that fateful game but Garoppolo still has a lot of respect for the gesture. 

“Not really since then, no, but just for him to do something as simple as that, it went a long way.”
 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).