For 49ers, Playoff Drive Starts Sunday

To avoid a first-ever three-game losing streak under Harbaugh and begin a push to the postseason, 49ers need a win in New Orleans Sunday

In his first season as head coach of the 49ers in 2011, Jim Harbaugh enjoyed a remarkable run. San Francisco went 13-3 and never lost consecutive games. In Year No. 2, the Niners again never lost two games in a row.

In wasn’t until last season, when the 49ers lost back-to-back games to the Seahawks and Colts early, and then the Panthers and Saints at midseason, that Harbaugh’s 49ers were faced with putting the brakes to a losing skid that could ruin their season. Both times they did, reeling off five straight wins the first time and six the next.

Earlier this season, the 49ers did it again. After losing on consecutive weeks to the Bears and Cardinals, San Francisco won three straight.

Now, the 49ers have fallen to 4-4 at the midpoint of their season after consecutive losses to the Broncos and Rams. If they have any hope of regaining some momentum, they’ll need to again come back strong off a two-game losing streak to beat the 4-4 Saints in New Orleans Sunday and hope they can keep pace or gain on the Seahawks (5-3) and Cardinals (7-1) in the NFC West.

This week, after absorbing a 13-10 loss to the Rams last weekend, the 49ers are feeling a sense of urgency. If they want to make a fourth straight trip to the postseason, they believe they need to come up with a big win Sunday.

“We’ve got to crank it up,” safety Eric Reid told Taylor Price of this week. “We need some wins. We have to get on the other side of .500. It starts this weekend. I think there’s an urgency. … We want to get to the Super Bowl, that’s our goal. I don’t think anyone is afraid to say that, but the only way you do that is by beating teams.”

To get a win this Sunday will be difficult for the 49ers, however.

The Saints have won two straight after a shaky start and have an 11-game home winning streak. The New Orleans defense has been solid recently, too, allowing just 80.8 yards rushing over the past month. And the Drew Brees-led offense has been balanced, with running back Mark Ingram averaging 4.9 yards per carry after consecutive 100-yard rushing games.

In losing two straight, the 49ers offensive line has had trouble protecting Colin Kaepernick and the offense hasn’t established a solid running attack. The defense, shredded by the Broncos, was good enough to win vs. St. Louis.

But 49ers running back Frank Gore believes the 49ers can break the skid and put together a strong second half to get to the postseason.

“We’re going to the playoffs,” he told reporters Wednesday. “We’re going to do it. We have great coaches, we have great guys. The last three years we’ve been spoiled. That’s where we want to go … the postseason. Once everybody takes care of their (individual) jobs, we have a great shot.”

That playoff drive will have to start Sunday in Louisiana.

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