The 49ers are 0-5, have to fly across the country this weekend and will yet again be underdogs when they take on Washington Sunday.
Plus, a look at their schedule isn’t encouraging. At this point it’s hard to find a game that looks winnable.
Yet the 49ers haven’t rolled over or given up. They’ve lost their last four games by a total of 11 points. They’re in games and coming close in the fourth quarter and a pair of overtime losses.
So, as the 49ers prepare to play 2-2 Washington, first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan – with the security of a six-year deal, along with new general manager John Lynch – told reporters this week he’s trying not to focus on the team’s record, but its progress. He wants to continue to test and evaluate his roster and keep looking to the future.
While his team may not win in Washington Sunday – oddsmakers have made the 49ers 10½- to 11-point underdogs – he believes it will battle as hard as it can.
“Our guys have been in it and had a chance to win all these games,” Shanahan told Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com this week. “I’m as disappointed as anyone that they haven’t. But I also know that we very easily could be 4-1, and I definitely think it’s somewhere in the middle of both those two.”
Shanahan says his attention is totally on the process of improving. Lineups will be based on merit and production, not pedigree.
“I think we’ve got to keep getting better, and whether that’s with younger guys, older guys, I decide that based on how practice is going and how they look every day,” he said.
Washington will be a tough opponent. Its offense is eighth in the NFL, averaging 363 yards per game with a balanced attack. Its running game is No. 7 in the league and its passing game with quarterback Kirk Cousins is 14th. Washington’s defense, meanwhile, ranks ninth in the league.
The 49ers will get a couple of key pieces back on defense, however, which should help. Strong safety Eric Reid and rookie linebacker Reuben Foster should strengthen a unit thanks ranks near the bottom of the league (28th) in giving up 366.4 yards per game.
Kickoff is set for 10 a.m. in the Bay Area.