49ers Face 1 Major Area of Concern in Playoffs, Insider Says

Kyle Shanahan

Getty Kyle Shanahan faces one key challenge with his team going into the playoffs.

The San Francisco 49ers enter the postseason as Super Bowl favorites, but the team hasn’t made it over a key hurdle all season.

“What happens if they fall behind? It’s not so much that the Niners are incapable of winning if their opponent gets an early lead so much as they have rarely been in those situations,” ESPN 49ers insider Nick Wagoner wrote on Sunday. “When they have, they’ve been unable to forge a comeback and win”

San Francisco stumbled to three-straight losses in October because of failed comebacks, and the 49ers couldn’t rally on Christmas Day against the AFC favorite Baltimore Ravens. The Niners’ 21-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday consisted of a blown lead instead with mostly backups playing.

“The 49ers had a halftime lead in 11 of their 12 victories and were tied in the other one,” Wagoner continued. “They’ve trailed entering the third quarter three times and lost all three.”

“The 49ers have a good habit of jumping on opponents and putting them away early,” Wagoner added. but it’s fair to wonder how key young players, such as quarterback Brock Purdy and kicker Jake Moody, will respond if they get in a close postseason game in which they have to deliver under pressure.”

Purdy won two playoff games last season before his early exit in the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles.  He completed 65.1% of his passes for 569 yards and three touchdowns versus no interceptions.

For Moody, it will mark his first postseason as a rookie, but he’s already shown shortcomings during the regular season. Moody missed a potential game-winning field goal against the Cleveland Browns in October, and he missed a total of four field goals this season.

49ers Look Loaded Going into Playoffs

Wagoner sees a lot of reasons for optimism as the 49ers enter the postseason.

“The 49ers have one of the NFL’s best and most balanced rosters paired with plenty of playoff experience and a much-needed bye,” Wagoner wrote. “With the exception of their Christmas night letdown against the Ravens, the 49ers have been a juggernaut when boasting a [mostly] healthy roster.”

“In the final few weeks, San Francisco looked like a team in need of a bye. Getting the top seed and the week off that goes with it should bode well for the Niners’ health and chances at a deep playoff run,” Wagoner continued. “Following their Week 9 bye, the Niners played arguably their best football of the season during a six-game winning streak in which they won by an average of 20 points.”

San Francisco has already beaten three of the four possible Divisional Round opponents: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Eagles, and Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers haven’t faced the Green Bay Packers yet, a team that’s won three-straight games going into the playoffs.

Christian McCaffrey Expected Back for Divisional Round

San Francisco will be at full strength in the Divisional Round with star running back Christian McCaffrey on the field again.

McCaffrey sustained a calf injury in Week 17, and he sat out Week 18. Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan told the media last week that he anticipates having McCaffrey back in time for the first playoff game.

McCaffrey has 1,459 yards rushing for 14 touchdowns and 564 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.

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