Must win for 49ers against Rams?


Must win for 49ers against Rams?

SAN FRANCISCO -- The 49ers can finish the job of winning the NFC West on Sunday against the lowly St. Louis Rams.But they will still have a lot of work to accomplish before the playoffs begin."There's a lot of football left, a lot of opportunities for us to get better," 49ers guard Adam Snyder said. "It would benefit us more to focus on that, rather than getting into the playoffs. I'm sure if we win, I'll celebrate a little. But you celebrate every win."There could be twice the reasons for 49ers running back Frank Gore to celebrate. He is just 22 yards away from surpassing Joe "The Jet" Perry on the official 49ers rushing list.RELATED: Gore on brink of franchise record
"The bigger picture is us winning the game and doing something we've haven't done in a while, and that's getting to the playoffs," Gore said."But I'd be happy if I do it this week. It would be a blessing. I would like to do it in front of the fans, who have been with us for a while and been behind us 100 percent. It would be a time to win and get the record. That would be great."In a lot of ways, this might be a must-win game for the 49ers because of the NFC playoff race. After all, the 49ers are currently in command of the No. 2 seed with a 9-2 record. The game against the Rams at Candlestick would appear to be their easiest remaining game. (The 49ers are 13-point favorites.)The 49ers finish the season at Arizona (Dec. 11), at home in a Monday night game against Pittsburgh (Dec. 19), and with road games at Seattle (Dec. 24) and St. Louis (Jan. 1).It seems unlikely the 49ers (9-2) can catch the Green Bay Packers (11-0) for the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. But the 49ers, essentially, have a two-game lead over the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys for the No. 2 spot, which includes a first-round bye and a home game in the divisional round of the playoffs.The 49ers own a one-game lead over the Saints (8-3), but the 49ers would win any tie-breaker based on a better record within the conference. The 49ers have a two-game lead over the Cowboys, but the Cowboys would win a tie-breaker based on their head-to-head overtime victory against the 49ers in Week 2.If the 49ers were to slip to the No. 3 slot in the playoffs, they would still get a home playoff game in the wild-card round. But if the 49ers win that game, they would be forced to play on the road in the divisional round.Today's key games
St. Louis at 49ers, 1:15 p.m.
Green Bay at N.Y. Giants, 1:15 p.m.
Dallas at Arizona, 1:15 p.m.
Detroit at New Orleans, 5:20 p.m. Here is a look at the complete NFC playoff picture (entering Sunday's games):Division leaders
1. Green Bay (North) 11-0. (NFC record: 9-0)
2. 49ers (West) 9-2. (NFC record: 7-1)
3. New Orleans (South) 8-3. (NFC record: 5-3)
4. Dallas (East) 7-4. (NFC record: 5-2)Wild card
5. Chicago (North) 7-4. (NFC record: 6-3)
6. Atlanta (South) 7-4. (NFC record: 5-4)
Next in line
7. Detroit (North) 7-4. (NFC record: 5-4)8. N.Y. Giants (East) 6-5. (NFC record: 3-5)
9. Seattle (West) 5-7. (NFC record: 4-4)
10. Washington (East) 4-7. (NFC record: 4-5)
11. Arizona (West) 4-7. (NFC record: 4-5)
12. Tampa Bay (South) 4-7. (NFC record: 3-5)
13. Philadelphia (East) 4-8. (NFC record: 4-6)
14. Carolina (South) 3-8. (NFC record: 1-7)
15. Minnesota (North) 2-9. (NFC record: 2-6)
16. St. Louis (West) 2-9. (NFC record: 1-8)Tie-breakers
Head-to-head, if applicable.
Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
Strength of victory.
Strength of schedule.

Bowman guarantees he will not be odd-man out of 49ers' competition

Bowman guarantees he will not be odd-man out of 49ers' competition

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ biggest free-agent acquisition on defense and one of the team’s first-round draft picks play the same position.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he is holding off on thinking about how everything is going to play out this season at the linebacker position.

“I really try not to envision it too hard because I see a lot of good players there,” Shanahan said Tuesday during the 49ers’ first week of organized team activities.

The 49ers awarded weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith guaranteed money as an unrestricted free agent totaling approximately $12 million. Then, on the first day of the draft, the 49ers’ No. 3 rated prospect experienced a free fall, and the club traded into the back end of the first round to select him.

While Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster has been sidelined through the offseason program as he recovers from shoulder injury, he figures to compete with Smith for the starting job. Foster will also learn middle linebacker, where NaVorro Bowman has earned first-team All-Pro honors in four seasons.

Bowman looks to be nearly all the way back from a torn Achilles that limited him to just four games last season.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Shanahan said. “Seeing Bow out here and how healthy he’s been, knowing we’ve added some good free agents, and the way the draft worked out, having a linebacker we had ranked very highly fall to us at the end of the first round. We got a lot better pretty fast.

“When you ask me how it’s going to play out, I’m not sure. It’s a good problem to have. It’s something you’d like to have any every position. There’s going to be a very good player who’s not out there all the time. That’s not a bad thing. That makes the two guys who are out there go a lot harder and play better. It makes special teams better and it allowed you to survive injuries, which almost always happen.”

Bowman’s vision for the upcoming season includes him retaining his role in the middle of the 49ers’ defense.

"I won't be on the sideline, I'll tell you that right now,” Bowman said.

Bowman said he was not fazed with the 49ers selected Foster in the first round. Foster is likely considered the heir apparent to Bowman.

Shanahan called Bowman after the selection of Foster was made, but Bowman said he did not need to speak with the coach about why the selection was made.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Bowman said of the phone call, “but it was good to hear from him, to see that he had something to say or an idea of what he wanted to get across to me.

“But we haven’t talked about it. I did that on purpose. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll compete with anyone, whether he’s 21 or 35. It doesn’t matter. I’m a guy who’s going to give my best effort and have full confidence in my abilities to play this game. I know how much I study this game. I know how good I am and that’s what was going to bring back here.

“It’s always a competition. There’s always someone trying to take your spot. As a player, if you keep that in mind, you’ll always put the work in that’s needed.”


49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

SANTA CLARA -- For the first time since Bryant Young retired following the 2007 season, the 49ers have placed his old number back into service.

Linebacker Dekoda Watson was issued No. 97 for the team’s organized team activities this week.

Young was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and eight-time winner of the Len Eshmont Award as the 49ers’ most inspirational and courageous player. No 49ers player has worn No. 97 in the past nine seasons or offseasons.

Rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas is now wearing No. 94 after being issued No. 96 for the rookie minicamp. Linebacker Reuben Foster is wearing No. 56.

Rookie defensive tackle D.J. Jones now wearing No. 96. Cornerback Rashard Robinson switched back to No. 33 after an earlier change to No. 26. Running back Kapri Bibbs is now 26. Rookie running back Joe Williams is No. 32 after wearing No. 33 at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles over the weekend. Veteran running back Tim Hightower is wearing No. 22.