Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan, 49ers players discuss the sense of urgency as the season nears its end

Dec 4, 2019 at 1:52 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers are at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, this week preparing for their Week 14 matchup against the New Orleans Saints. The team opted to remain on the East Coast rather than return to the Bay Area only to have to fly out to Louisiana a few days later.

As is often the case when the regular-season approaches its end, there is a lot at stake for several NFC teams, including the Saints and 49ers — both 10-2. San Francisco is trying to reclaim the NFC West lead from the Seattle Seahawks (10-2) while New Orleans wants to maintain its top spot in the playoff standings.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan isn't looking too far ahead, for now. As has been the case all season, he is laser-focused on the opponent ahead of him.

"I probably will (pay attention to the standings) the last couple of weeks," Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday. "I've had a lot of people ask me about that this week because people think a lot of stuff has changed, but there's no difference this week than last week. We got ourselves in position, going into last week, we could control our own destiny, and we're in that same position this week. Nothing's really changed on that, so that's stuff that, until it does, you don't really think about it.

"With how good the teams are doing and their records in the NFC, I know that will come down to the last couple of weeks, which is a few weeks from now. I'm not worried about it, but when it does come to there, yeah, I will address it with that team."

One player, Emmanuel Sanders, indicated that there is a bit of a sense of urgency heading into this final stretch of the season. Sanders, a Super Bowl champion, knows all about the importance of December games and putting yourself into a good position for the playoffs.

"The sense of urgency is huge," Sanders said. "It's playoff football around here."

Sanders added: "Obviously, it is a sense of urgency, but I try to be here to be the voice of letting them understand why they feel the way that they feel. Obviously, you get into those games, you're like, 'Man, this doesn't feel like Week 4.' Every single play matters. You've got to think that."

Second-year tackle Mike McGlinchey, unlike Sanders, has never been in an NFL playoff game. He doesn't feel that sense of urgency just yet.

"I don't think we're worried about January, yet," McGlinchey told reporters. "I don't think we're worried about seeding at all. I think our sense of urgency is to just get the job done versus New Orleans. That's all we're concerned about, and if we win the rest of our games, the rest will take care of itself. So that's what we're going to try to do."

McGlinchey admits that some of these games the 49ers have been in had a playoff atmosphere. That will help prepare the team for what lies ahead.

"It's just something to pull on and pull from," McGlinchey said. "When we do get those opportunities down the stretch ... we can pull from these three weeks that we've had here that have been a gauntlet of the best teams on the NFL.

"But, right now, we're not focusing on experience. We're focusing on getting the job done, and hopefully, we can do that this Sunday against New Orleans."

Jimmy Garoppolo has a similar view.

"We've had a couple of [big games] this year, some big ones, and primetime games, and things like that," the quarterback said. "It will definitely help us going forward."

Tight end George Kittle enjoys playing in games like these during this challenging stretch of the season. They are opportunities for San Francisco to show how good a football team it is.

"Any time you get that opportunity, it's fun," Kittle added. "I think we're a pretty good football team, and, unfortunately, we didn't get it done last week, but this is another opportunity for us to go into someone's house, and try to leave with a win, and that's what our goal is this week."

The task at hand won't be easy. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome can be a hostile environment for visiting teams.

"I played there a bunch, and it's no secret it's a loud place, but I think the more prepared you are, and the more on it with your details, you go in there, and you just try to handle your business," tackle Joe Staley told reporters.

Added Shanahan: "They can get going big in [the Superdome], especially when their team is playing like they are. I'm very glad it's an earlier game. It only gets worse the later it gets, but it won't be much of a difference. It's as loud as it can be.

"I think it was good for us to be in Baltimore the week before. I think that was the loudest stadium we had to deal with so far this year. New Orleans will be the exact same, if not louder."

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