There was a point in the 2021 NFL season when the San Francisco 49ers looked to be missing the playoffs again.
Two years after playing in Super Bowl LIV, Kyle Shanahan was coaching a 2-4 team that lost four straight games.
Three of those defeats came against postseason hopefuls, highlighting their lack of competitive drive against better teams.
But the tides turned for the 49ers when they won six of their last eight games.
— NinersNationCP (@CpNiners) December 20, 2021
After Week 15, their record stands at 8-6, giving them the sixth seed if the playoffs started today.
It’s fascinating that they didn’t change much to achieve success.
Are the Niners peaking at the right time with minor adjustments to their game plan?
That said, can they sustain their momentum and become the NFC’s representative in Super Bowl LVI?
Jimmy Garoppolo Is Silencing The Critics
Trey Lance’s arrival placed much pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo to perform.
It didn’t help his cause either when Lance showed flashes of brilliance during the limited snaps he played.
But at least for now, no one is questioning Garoppolo’s worth because he’s running their offense smoothly.
He does not care whether they throw more or run the ball more.
What matters is that he gets the job done to give San Francisco a winning chance every week.
Tired: hot takes on twitter
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) December 22, 2021
Garoppolo is not forcing the issue downfield and is facilitating their attack as designed.
The 49ers are not afraid to run the ball because they have one of the better offensive lines in the league.
They understand that Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson Jr., and even Deebo Samuel must get their carries.
As a result, San Francisco dominated the ground game during their last six games.
The Niners had 868 rushing yards during that stretch, while their opponents could only produce 467.
Garoppolo could not care less about who gets the yards as long as they limited their turnovers.
— Coach Yac 🗣 (@Coach_Yac) December 22, 2021
He has been doing well in taking care of the ball, throwing only three picks in their last six games.
San Francisco’s starting quarterback is making the most of his 28.6 passing attempts per game.
Over their last eight games, he completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,066 yards and 12 touchdowns.
His numbers aren’t spectacular, but he’s doing all the right things for the 49ers.
How Far Will They Go In The Playoffs?
It would be better for the 49ers to win their three remaining games to solidify their claim to a playoff spot.
Their spot is not safe yet because four more teams outside the top seven have a realistic chance of entering the postseason.
But if the playoffs started today, it’s challenging to see the 49ers getting past the Divisional Round.
They would be going up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card Round and might have a chance to win.
Jimmy Garoppolo: 86.5 PFF Grade since Week 8
🥇 1st among all QBs
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 20, 2021
Tampa Bay won’t have Chris Godwin and may not have Leonard Fournette moving forward, while Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown are still questionable to return.
Supposing they get past the Bucs, San Francisco’s playoff journey will end at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers.
They’ll have a hard time keeping up with Aaron Rodgers, especially with David Bakhtiari possibly playing by that time.
Yes, the turnaround they pulled off this season is remarkable.
However, they’re not Super Bowl material this year.