The San Francisco 49ers survived a scare in Sin City on New Year’s Day.
But the 49ers’ 37-34 overtime win over the Las Vegas Raiders not only got S.F. to stay composed against the fright tactic by Vegas, but the road win additionally did this: Put some fear into Philadelphia Eagles fans as the race for the NFC’s top seed took a new turn.
The Eagles, who for the longest time had control of the top seed and needed just one more win to officially seal home field advantage, has now dropped their last two games — the latest a 20-10 stunner pulled out by the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, January 1. And the now 13-3 Eagles got members of the 12-4 49ers, including head coach Kyle Shanahan, sounding off on potentially catching Philly.
Shanahan Chimes in, Revealing Where Focus is
Shanahan first shared what the first goal is involving the Niners.
“Our first goal is to get in the playoffs,” Shanahan told reporters after the victory at Allegiant Stadium. “Once you get there, you always have a chance for your ultimate goal. And everything about once you do get there is positioning yourself the best way you can.”
This 49ers team not only stretched their winning streak to nine, but have now positioned themselves as the current holder of the second seed. San Francisco moved into that slot after the Minnesota Vikings were smacked by the Green Bay Packers 41-17 Sunday.
However, he knows his group of veterans and young guys are aware of what’s now at stake with one game left in the regular season that involves the Eagles.
“I know that fires the guys up, and I think with Philly losing, I think we’ve got a chance at the other one too,” Shanahan added. “Our playoffs started a long time ago. That’s the way we look at it, and we’re going to keep it going.”
Players React to Scenario
For Christian McCaffrey, he’s yet to lose as a member of the 49ers. And he’s soon to witness only his second postseason appearance of his career, the last being his rookie season of 2017 with the Carolina Panthers.
Before getting into the scratch-and-claw affair with the Raiders, McCaffrey and the 49ers walked into a scenario where the No. 2 seed was in play.
“I think we all knew that in the back of our head. But it didn’t matter unless we won this game,” McCaffrey said. “We were just trying to focus on everything we could do to execute and come out with a win.”
All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner, meanwhile, found out where the 49ers are now slotted…and how close they are to perhaps ending up with the conference’s top seed.
“We found out after the game (about the No. 2 seed), and obviously that’s huge for our team,” Warner told reporters.
However, Warner hopes to see more focus from his team in the regular season finale against Arizona.
“All that aside, we’ve got to make sure we’re playing better on our side of the ball, defensively. The offense had a heck of a game. Even special teams has been playing really good. We’ve got to make sure we’re playing at our best, come playoffs, regardless of our seeding,” Warner said.
What Must Happen for the 49ers?
So now, with the 4-12 Cardinals all that’s left for the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday, January 8, here’s what the Niners are facing for the top seed.
With a win and Philadelphia losing to the playoff bound New York Giants, the 49ers will end up leapfrogging the Eagles for the NFC’s top spot. However, the Eagles still control their own destiny for No. 1: They just need to snap out of their two-game slump to finish with the conference’s best record.
But also lurking? The Dallas Cowboys. Dallas, who knocked off the Eagles 40-34 on Christmas Eve, can sneak into the top seed if both the 49ers and Eagles lose their games in the season finale.
It’s suddenly a wild final marathon chase for the right to have home field advantage in the playoffs. And the 49ers are in this three-team race.