The 49ers lost again Thursday night, in heartbreaking fashion. After three games they’re winless and sitting at the bottom of the NFC West.
Yet over the past two games, the 49ers are giving their fans something new to see. Last week, it was an improved running game and a much more solid defense vs. the Seahawks. Thursday night it was the potential of Kyle Shanahan’s newly installed offensive system that put up 39 points with a suspect offensive line and a journeyman quarterback. Plus, Shanahan’s 49ers have fought hard the past two games. Whereas the Niners of the past three seasons have been rather dull, plodding teams, this version has more spark.
“I was proud of the guys, how they fought,” Shanahan told Dieter Kurtenbach of the Bay Area News Group after the 41-39 loss to the Rams. “We have mentally strong people. I believe we’ll get better from all this stuff. … I don’t really care about record right now, I care about how guys are responding to it.”
While that may sound strange – a head coach not caring about his won-loss record – Shanahan certainly seems to be taking a long view of his assignment to help turn around this franchise.
As Kurtenbach noted, the effort and improvement this team is showing right now, even in losses, indicates Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are changing atmosphere and attitude.
“So as long as the team is trying – so long as a positive, high-effort culture is being built – there’s all the reason in the world to root for 49ers losses,” wrote Kurtenbach. “Frankly, the tougher they are to swallow, the better. Embrace moral victories, 49ers fans.”
Columnist Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle saw Thursday’s game as perhaps the liveliest, most interesting game played in the short history of Levi’s Stadium.
“The 49ers fought back and they entertained,” she wrote. “So, even in a losing effort, their fans will take it.”
But, the 49ers will be a work in progress for a while. While they are showing a spark under the team’s new leadership – and getting some returns from young players on the roster – they won’t truly be ready to start making a move up the pecking order in the NFL until they get what the Rams have, a young quarterback to build around, as ex-Cal standout Jared Goff is showing in his second season in Los Angeles.
Wrote Killion: “Even with the better performance, some people are going to be upset. You can get worked up about (Brian) Hoyer all you want; hey, it’s your blood pressure. But we all knew the situation going in: A journeyman in Hoyer, on his seventh team. A rookie in C.J. Beathard who likely will get some playing time and will have growing pains. What they need is a QB like the local kid who was on the other team Thursday night, in the most entertaining game Levi’s has hosted.”
The 49ers get their next opportunity on Sunday, Oct. 1, against the Arizona Cardinals.