The 49ers have forgotten how to lose. They could go all the way


The word juggernaut is used a lot in sports. Often wastefully, sometimes incorrectly and invariably with a liberal dose of exaggeration.

The San Francisco 49ers are a juggernaut right now, and they showed that on Sunday night when things got messy and messy and rarely went according to plan. Doing it under those circumstances says more than doing it in bullish bursts that were a big part of what is now a 12-game winning streak.

In the NFC divisional round, when the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive front wreaked havoc, when mistakes faded and never went away, when it became a struggle and a battle of wills, a lot of little things added up to form the result. But one reality remained firm more than anything.

The Niners have forgotten how to lose.

“You work so hard to get to those points, those situations, all we could think about was winning that game,” head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters. “Once we’ve done it, it’s kind of fun, but once you get in the locker room, it’s on to the next thing. We’re not reflecting on anything yet.”

And so he’s set to return to the NFC Championship for the third time in four years, and now it doesn’t really matter how he looked along the way.

That San Francisco’s electrifying playmakers were held in check for large stretches at Levi’s Stadium and that offensive momentum proved devilishly difficult to top. That defensive strength was there, but the team’s prowess in stifling the Cowboys was somewhat flattered by Dak Prescott’s wrong hand.

That even the drive that turned the game was a collection of narrow escapes. It started with six minutes left in the third quarter on a Dallas offside call, was highlighted by a George Kittle catch that was undeniably brilliant but bounced off his facemask, was backed up by two calls of defensive holding, survived an interception by Trevon Diggs and went down. ended with Christian McCaffrey running the ball.

‘Everybody did their part’ – Brock Purdy and George Kittle talk to Erin Andrews

Erin Andrews spoke with 49ers tight end George Kittle and quarterback Brock Purdy after San Francisco’s playoff win against the Dallas Cowboys.

The real power of winning all those games manifested itself in the minds of the 49ers’ players more than in their actions on the field. A team that knows nothing but winning doesn’t have that familiar sinking feeling when things start to go wrong.

The trust is always there that things will work themselves out. Indeed, they have been training, from a 3-4 start to the season that now seems like a lifetime ago. Here they went back to work.

No one had the game of their life. Brock Purdy didn’t falter, but there were times when he looked like a rookie quarterback, if not a late draft pick. Deebo Samuel, McCaffrey, Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk had moments, but all have had bigger days.

Key plays on defense had more to do with Prescott’s mistakes than flashes of true inspiration. It doesn’t matter though, right? not now

The Super Bowl odds will be tight, but make no mistake, the Niners will be a popular choice and either on the cusp of favoritism or at the top of the list. Beating the Philadelphia Eagles on the road next weekend (3:00 p.m. ET next Sunday on FOX and the FOX Sports app) won’t be an easy task, but it might seem a little easier when you’re currently the team feared by the whole world. League.

It’s hard to remember exactly what things looked like and felt like on Oct. 23, the last time the Niners lost, 44-23 at home to the Kansas City Chiefs. Or even further back, when the other three regular season losses came against the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons with a combined 15-36 record.

When Trey Lance (remember him?) was under center for the first of them and Jimmy Garoppolo for the others. When McCaffrey was a Carolina Panther and people wondered if the 49ers would ever reunite.

The act is already in force. They are a team that can be slowed down, but probably not completely frustrated. They work with a system that forgives mistakes—up to a point—and is unrelenting in its pressure.

They are working on a streak that now feels endless and with a mindset that contains the kind of expectant arrogance that championship teams require.

They are, quite simply, a behemoth, resilient enough to weather the bad times and skilled enough to seem unstoppable when everything is going perfectly.

Only the best teams in the league remain, but it will take something special to stop them. Because the behemoths, by design, keep going, no matter what obstacles come their way.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX i subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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