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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Mailbag: Are the 49ers as good as they seem? How will San Francisco handle Seahawks’ receivers? How will rain impact playoff game against Seattle?

Marc Adams
Jan 11, 2023 at 8:53 AM--

It's the first week of the postseason for the San Francisco 49ers, and we opened our mailbag to see what fans were thinking. There is excitement, and concern, but that's all normal.

Let's jump right in.

The 49ers have had the easiest schedule this year - are they really as good as they seem? - DoctorWDS

When the season began, the 49ers had one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. They played who was on their schedule. It's not their fault that teams like the Broncos, Rams, Cardinals, and Raiders were worse than everyone expected they'd be.

And it's not the 49ers' fault that they broke NFL teams all season. Remember the stat about no team winning a game after they played the 49ers? Not one team, all season, won the week after playing the 49ers. That's impressive.

The 49ers beat the high-flying Dolphins, Tom Brady's Buccaneers, won in Seattle, and beat a tough Commanders team down the stretch. And they did it with a rookie QB.

And for the most part, they won convincingly. There were some close games, but there were several blowouts.

Are they really as good as they seem? They're on a 10-game win streak. I'd say they are as good as they seem.

Marc, what are your thoughts re: Gipson for next year? Do they try to re-sign him, Jimmie Ward, or both? - Dr. Phani T.

I'd love to see the 49ers bring back Tashaun Gipson and Jimmie Ward. Especially Ward.

I believe they will make Ward an offer. But he may test free agency to see what's out there for him.

I think they'll make a decision on Gipson, based on what happens with Ward. Gipson has been really good for the 49ers, but I'd rather have Ward back there.

Assuming Mooney Ward follows DK Metcalf wherever he lines up, how will the Niners handle coverage of Tyler Lockett? Will Lenoir be able to handle him one-on-one, or will they give him help? - Uncle Salty

Like Uncle Salty, I expect Charvarius Ward to follow D.K. Metcalf everywhere on Saturday. That means Jimmie Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, and others will have to hold down Tyler Lockett. They've done it twice already this season, so there's no reason to believe they can't do it again.

But Lenoir has had his share of struggles lately. Fortunately, he seems to be very confident. He and Talanoa Hufanga are the keys to the defense. They're the two most likely to get beat, so they need to be ready.

To better answer the question, though, I would think that DeMeco Ryans will have a safety cheat toward wherever Lenoir is.

Is it a hot take to say Lenoir had a good position on the first TD pass but got outmuscled by a guy with a significant height advantage? - Covlol

Lenoir may have been outmuscled. Or he may have been pushed. You can decide for yourself.

Isn't a 10-point spread a little steep for a division opponent? - DoctorWDS

Normally yes. But the 49ers are a lot better than the Seahawks.

I'm not a betting man, but if I were, I'd pick the under for this one, though. The weather (see questions below) could be a factor. That makes me nervous.

How would rainy weather help or hurt the 49ers in this game? - Niner Jim

It will definitely hurt. Weather is the great equalizer. It levels the playing field. We saw that in Chicago in week one.

A rainy game can help the 49ers by making Geno Smith more likely to turn the ball over. But I still think it's more likely to hurt the 49ers, simply because it will take away some of the advantages they have when it comes to talent.

The 49ers have played in a handful of rainy games over the last few seasons, and have not fared well. In 2019, they won a game in Washington, but there was very little from the offense. That same season, they played a rainy one in Baltimore and fell short. Those were the two lowest-scoring games for the 49ers in 2019.

And who could forget last year's abysmal offensive showing against the Indianapolis Colts? They lost that game 30-18, and turned the ball over four times.

The 49ers have played some huge playoff games on messy, rainy fields, mostly at Candlestick Park. We all remember the muddy field they played on in the 1992 NFC Championship Game (loss), the 1994 NFC Championship Game (win), and the 2011 NFC Championship Game (see: Williams, Kyle).

And of course, there were back-to-back rainy postseason losses to the Green Bay Packers in 1996 (in Green Bay) and 1997 (in San Francisco).

Rainy weather can help (and hurt) a postseason football game. The 49ers have seen it happen both ways, but more often, have not fared well in rainy affairs.

How has Brock faired in rainy games in college? - BrickbyBrick2022

Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to this. I didn't watch much of Iowa State.

I think he should be fine. The wind would be a bigger deal, and certainly ball security will be an issue. I haven't heard any reports of Purdy struggling to throw a wet ball, so I think he should be fine.

David Lombardi, of the Athletic, posted a video of Purdy throwing in a rainy, windy practice last week. But this doesn't really show how he might be affected in a game.

Who is in line to replace these key pieces to our success if they leave in the off-season? - ShoqMax

  • Demeco Ryans- I'm hoping for Vic Fangio, but he's already in demand.
  • Assistant GM Adam Peters- If Adam Peters leaves, that would be a huge loss. Ran Carthon might be his replacement, unless he gets plucked from the 49ers' front office, as well.
  • Director of Player Personnel Ran Carthon- Good question. I'm not really sure who would replace him. If they were to promote from within, it could be someone like Tariq Ahmad, director of college scouting, or RJ Gillen, director of pro personnel.

Will Christian McCaffrey throw for a TD in the postseason? - Ross

I don't think so, Ross. I think defenses will be focusing their energy on stopping this Christian McCaffrey aerial attack.

I'm kidding, of course. McCaffrey has shown he can do it. So has Deebo Samuel. It's the postseason, which means it's time to pull out all the stops. It wouldn't shock me to see a non-QB throw a touchdown pass in the playoffs.

Before Brock Purdy, has there ever been a rookie QB leading a team in the playoffs favored by double digits? - Rob S.

I'm not sure that any team with a rookie QB has ever been a double-digit favorite in a playoff game. Certainly, the Seahawks were really good in Russell Wilson's rookie season, but they were only three-point favorites in the two postseason games they played that year.

The Dolphins were good in Dan Marino's rookie year and were eight-point favorites in Marino's first postseason game. Marino threw two touchdown passes in his playoff debut. But, he also threw two interceptions, and the Dolphins did not win the game. The team they lost to? The Seattle Seahawks.

No rookie has ever won the Super Bowl as a starting quarterback. In fact, no rookie quarterback has even led his team to the big game. There have certainly been rookie quarterbacks who have led their team into the playoffs, even deep into the playoffs.

But so far, only three rookie quarterbacks have led their teams as far as the conference championship game. In 2004, Ben Roethlisberger led the Pittsburgh Steelers to the AFC Championship Game. Mark Sanchez took the New York Jets to the AFC Championship Game in 2009. Joe Flacco took the Baltimore Ravens to the AFC Championship Game in 2008.

None of those teams were double-digit favorites, though.

Can Purdy do what no rookie QB has done before? We'll know the answer in just a few weeks.

How can Trey Lance catch up to Brock to win the starting job next year? Brock is going to get better in the offseason too! - DoctorWDS

Trey Lance just needs to keep working and learning. He has the physical tools to succeed.

But Purdy has the qualities Kyle Shanahan wants in a quarterback: smarts, quick decision-making, correct decision-making, accuracy, confidence, mobility, strong leader, etc. He may have already shown Shanahan enough.

That said, injuries happen. If Lance is the backup next season, he needs to be ready. If Purdy misses any time, Lance will have a shot to prove he should be QB1 moving forward.

On a different note, no one asked a Jimmy Garoppolo question (that may be a first). But I wanted to respond to something I heard a fan say on the radio.

A fan called into one of the shows on 95.7 the Game to say that Garoppolo should not return because he's not as good as Brock Purdy and if he were to play and get hurt, it would hurt his trade value.

First, I don't know that Garoppolo is much worse than Purdy. He was playing really well, and the 49ers were winning a lot of games before he got injured. So while the offense has been humming at a higher clip under Purdy, it wouldn't be a huge decline if Garoppolo were to play.

Second, Garoppolo is a free agent at the end of the season. He cannot be traded. Maybe the 49ers can get back a compensatory pick for losing him, but they won't be able to trade him.

Thanks for all your questions. Hopefully next Monday we'll be fielding questions from happy 49ers fans, following a big win over Seattle.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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