Know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em.
There’s no question by now, Jim Harbaugh keeps his cards close to the vest. But this Sunday, the 49ers coach will look to win out big in the form of clinching San Francisco’s first playoff berth since 2002 by defeating (or tying) the visiting St. Louis Rams. In fact, the 49ers could also clinch with a loss to the Rams, just as long as the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks both lose in Week 13.
Being so close to earning a playoff berth, however, won’t change Harbaugh’s approach.
“We may be ahead in the chip count,” said Harbaugh at his weekly Monday address. “We don’t have a seat at the final table just yet.”
And while Harbaugh may be aware of potential postseason scenarios, others inside the 49ers locker room weren’t as familiar.
“I didn’t even know that,” replied linebacker Parys Haralson when asked about the 49ers needing a win to make the playoffs. “I just see the games and I go out and play.”
Alex Smith, conscious of Sunday’s implications against the Rams, is trying to avoid dwelling on the obvious win to get in scenario.
“It’s crazy,” Smith said. “I guess we all understand it’s there. I think we can still point to the fact that we have too many division games left. But we’ve got the Rams coming to town in a division game with a lot on the line and a potentially a chance to get the division.”
Instead of focusing on the opponent right away, the 49ers quarterback is first intent on building on mistakes from the team’s second defeat of 2011, a 16-6 Thanksgiving night loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
After watching film, Smith was unhappy with the big downfield plays that weren’t made. Smith missed a wide open Delanie Walker on the 49ers’ first play from scrimmage when the tight end ran free on a corner route as Smith threw a check-down to Vernon Davis in the right flat.
“When I turned on the film, there were some opportunities to push the ball down the field,” lamented Smith after failing to take advantage of other one-on-one matchups.
The loss to Baltimore, which snapped an eight-game winning streak, is not forgotten by the 49ers, but is something the team will have to move past quickly. St. Louis has its only two wins in the past five games, including a victory over the New Orleans Saints.
Linebacker Larry Grant is well aware of the talent on the Rams roster. He spent the past three seasons in St. Louis; building strong friendships with guys he’ll call opponents this Sunday.
“It gives me a little motivation to play this week,” Grant said. “The good thing about this locker room is that we don’t take anybody lightly. No matter what game it is. We’ve played hard in every game and it’s shown on the field. We’re going to continue to do that.”
Notes and Quotes
Harbaugh said his team won’t be in “any resting mindset” in the team’s remaining five games. The 49ers coach said the remaining games will be critical for his team.
Wide receiver Braylon Edwards shared with reporters that an injured shoulder has hampered him in recent weeks. Both Harbaugh and Edwards admitted that the wideout has been on “pitch count” to limit his playing time. The 49ers have sprinkled in other receivers into the offense in recent weeks, but Edwards said his goal is to be 100-percent for a potential playoff run. “It’s very frustrating. I just ask the team to bear with me,” said Edwards, who has 14 catches for 172 yards on the year. “I can’t really control being hurt; it’s just part of the game.”
Two-time 49ers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Justin Smith said the 49ers defense performed well against the Ravens, allowing 16 points on the night. But ultimately, Smith said, the unit struggled on first and second downs which allowed Baltimore to convert on 7-of-15 third downs. “We could have put ourselves in more manageable third-down situations,” Smith said. “That’s what we have to do moving forward.”
Harbaugh wouldn’t share the return date for rookie fullback Bruce Miller (head), who missed Thursday’s game after starting the previous seven contests. “We’ll see. I can’t give anything definitive yet,” Harbaugh said. The coach didn’t give anything definitive on the status of starting right guard Adam Snyder, who missed time in the Ravens game due to a hamstring injury.
Asked about the progress of rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Harbaugh said he’d be “confident” if his rookie signal caller was pressed into action. Harbaugh also said the second-round pick has taken first-team and scout reps throughout the year at 49ers practices. “He’s progressing… preparing himself to play every week,” Harbaugh said.
Tags: Alex Smith, Braylon Edwards, Bruce Miller, Jim Harbaugh, Justin Smith
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