Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan explains why 49ers’ hot start to the season only added more pressure

Jan 29, 2020 at 10:12 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers didn't lose their first game of the season until November 11, 2019, and even that required overtime and a botched field-goal attempt by the Niners' fill-in kicker.

Kyle Shanahan and his squad rattled off eight consecutive wins to that point. Many felt eight total wins for the season would have been viewed as progress. They had that by Week 9.

Still, it was no time to relax for the 49ers. Eight wins, after all, only guaranteed a .500 record for the season. The team couldn't pump the brakes and knew it had to finish strong. The doubters were still there, just not inside the locker room.

"We started out great. It was fun, 8-0," Shanahan told 49ers reporter Keiana Martin in Miami.

But it wasn't enough.

Shanahan remembered his hot start with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. That team won its first five games and then lost eight of its last 11 to finish 8-8. The 49ers coach knew that 8-0 wasn't a time to stop and take a breath or bask in your hot start.

"Now the pressure starts, where you don't want to waste this opportunity," Shanahan said. "Everyone's gunning for you. You think you're 8-0, and everyone thinks you're automatically in the playoffs, and like it's not going to come down to the last couple of weeks."

It did come down to those final weeks. The 49ers didn't even clinch a playoff berth until after a Week 15 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. With the pressure on, San Francisco went on to win its final two regular-season games and earn the NFC's No. 1 seed, which meant home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even that didn't come until the last play of the final NFL regular-season game.

"To watch our guys go through that, and for them not to get tight, to not look for other people to make plays because they don't want to mess up, our guys only got stronger," Shanahan continued, "our guys started to believe in each other more, and our team took on a very great attitude. Everyone had just one mindset, and that was to find a way to win. No one cared how we did it.

"It's very cliché. Everyone likes to say that a lot, but it was extremely genuine with our guys, and that's why I think they're a special group."

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