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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Despite injuries, win over Giants came as no surprise to 49ers after strong week of preparation

Sep 27, 2020 at 3:27 PM--

From the outside looking in, it was hard to know exactly what to expect from the San Francisco 49ers this week given how many injuries they had coming into their Sunday afternoon game against the New York Giants.

But, as it turns out, it seems like there wasn't much doubt on their end about what they would do to the Giants after how well their preparations went throughout the week.

After posting a 31-13 win over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on September 20, the 49ers spent the following days at The Greenbrier -- a five-star luxury hotel located among the mountains in Sulpher Springs, West Virginia -- before returning to East Rutherford to play the Giants. That turned out to be a good decision, based on what they did to the Giants on Sunday.

"Those three days that we had down there at The Greenbrier, our team kind of expected this," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said following his team's dominant 36-9 win over the Giants.

The 49ers had reason to hang their heads a bit after their win over the Jets due to the fact they lost five key players to injury in the game (defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas to season-ending torn ACLs, running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman to knee injuries, and quarterback Jimmy Garopplo to a high ankle sprain). And at first, maybe they did.

"I think we all know how we felt after that Jets win," said quarterback Nick Mullens, who threw for 343 yards and one touchdown against the Giants in place of the injured Garoppolo. "I played, but I really didn't feel any sort of excitement that I get out there on the field. I knew I could do better, then obviously with the injuries, the feeling it does to a franchise, we're well aware that. But that's the painful part about the NFL. You've just got to keep going."

But throughout the week, the 49ers came together and went through a series of practices that put them in a much better place. As a result, their domination of the Giants didn't come as much of a surprise.

"Nothing against them at all, but we had a real good week of practice," said Shanahan. "We were pretty confident last night."

Not that the Giants didn't make the 49ers work for their win. The Giants kept the 49ers out of the end zone until late in the first half, and in the second half there were a number of long drives the 49ers had to complete in order to pull away. But make no mistake -- the 49ers were in complete control for much of the game and clearly looked like the superior team, even though they were without a total of nine starters due to injury.

"I know the way it ended up, but by no means was that easy," said Shanahan. "Those drives were grinds. We didn't punt today and we didn't turn it over, but man, it didn't feel like that. We had to work for a lot of stuff and they kept us out of the end zone a number of times. Fortunately, our defense was able to get some turnovers, but that's a good team. It got away a little bit there at the end, but I was real proud of our guys. That was our plan. We came in and wanted to do that, thought we could do it, and I was proud of the guys for pulling it off."

Sunday's game also demonstrated major differences in depth and resilience between the Super Bowl-contending 49ers and a Giants team in the middle of a rebuild. The Giants had injury problems of their own heading into the game, most notably the loss of star running back Saquon Barkley to a torn ACL. But the 49ers showed they have the amount of talent up and down their roster to be able to dominate despite heavy personnel losses while also proving they have a winning mentality that allows them to rebound from a demoralizing situation.

"We won big last week, but it certainly didn't feel that way," offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey said. "When we came off the field and you lose guys like Nick and Solly for the year, and then you lose Tevin and Raheem and Jimmy and all that kind of stuff, it takes a toll on you emotionally because as much as we are teammates, we're friends first. You root for your guys to be healthy first and foremost, then you root for the success after that. At the same time, there's still a job to do. We're all professionals and we all understand it's a part of the sport, as unfortunate as that is. We have a team here. We have guys from top to bottom of our roster who are capable of excelling on an NFL football field. I think it showed that today."

The 49ers certainly wish they didn't have to go through the rash of injuries they went through against the Jets in Week 2, and there still may be situations to come in which those injuries hurt them in their journey to get back to the Super Bowl. But for now, they'll be able to leave the East Coast with an experience that will make them a stronger team as they head into the next portion of their schedule.

"The more situations you go through where you have success and stuff, it always gives you confidence in everything," said Shanahan. "You get stronger as the year goes. We weren't the same team in Week 1 last year that we were in Week 7. Each time we won and we stacked those up, our team got a lot more confidence. There's only one way that happens -- you play good and you win. We've had two good games here in a row, and I think our team does have a lot more confidence over that."

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