No. 6: Get Hot Down the Stretch
The 49ers have shown a slight knack for playing better in the second half of seasons the last two years. There was, of course, that five-game win streak to close out 2017 when Jimmy Garoppolo took over starting duties. And three of the Niners’ four wins last season came in the second half, too.
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One could make the argument momentum can be more important to a deep playoff run than sheer talent. It’s a loose argument, but on paper, the Carolina Panthers of 2018 should have been a vastly better team than the Philadelphia Eagles. Yet the Panthers finished the second half of last year going 1-7, while the Eagles won five of their last six contests and managed to get all the way to the NFC divisional round, where they lost to the New Orleans Saints by one score.
Simply put, the Eagles got hot when it mattered most, while the Panthers fell flat at the wrong time.
A chief area for San Francisco, relevant to this, would be winning the close games.
As Niner Noise pointed out here, holding onto those late leads and maintaining offensive consistency over four quarters was a problem for the 49ers in 2018. Five of the Niners’ 12 losses were by one score, meaning to stay hot, the Niners have to play complete games.
Complete games lead to hot streaks, and hot streaks down the stretch lead to playoff runs.