The ignominious loss to the Baltimore Ravens a week ago Thursday night has sprinkled down drops of doubt upon the heads of the brethren in the 49er Village. The Harbaugh Mystique was wounded and the O-line was exposed.
It was a light rain and easy to shrug off as an aberrant weather pattern. But a loss to the Rams this Sunday would cause a full blown down pour of torrential proportions.
Strange as it sounds, with a four and a half game lead and five to play, but this Sunday is a MUST WIN game. Losing to the Rams at home would shatter the confidence of the team and the fans and open up the very real scenario of losing all three remaining division road games and also the home game against Pittsburgh, possibly leaving the team in a 9-7 tie with Seattle, and losing the division title on a tie-breaker. Such an epic choke job would plunge the franchise into darkest despair.
Are you scared yet? You will be come Monday if the 49ers somehow blow this game.
At fretful moments like this, I repeat the year’s mantra: In Defense We Trust.
The offense is not as trustworthy. Oh no, not them. It is probable that the offense will not become a week to week hell raiser until next year. This year’s model has done well, is worthy of admiration, but it is a week to week, just enough to win concoction of Harbaugh/Roman game plans and mistake free effort. It has overpowered precisely one team — the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Almost half of the team’s victories this year have required overcoming a fourth quarter deficit. While it is admirable that the team can suck it up when needed, it is also a less than reassuring trend. Great teams don’t often have to scramble for victory in the fourth. They are pulling away comfortably in the fourth.
Fortunately, there are very few great teams. Green Bay, New England, the Saints at home — that’s about it. And none of those three teams have an elite defense. The 49ers do, as do the Texans, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. Come playoff time, history tends to favor the great defenses over the great offenses.
But first, we have to get into the playoffs. It is my strong recommendation that the 49ers do precisely that on Sunday. Or else. The formula for victory is simple. If the defense gives up 13 points or less, the Niners will win.