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How securing the No. 1 seed early impacted Kyle Shanahan’s plan for 49ers-Rams

Jan 4, 2024 at 4:32 PM--

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San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan had anticipated needing to win the final two games of the regular season to secure home-field advantage. Before Sunday's victory over the Washington Commanders, he labeled the matchups as "must-win" games.

Then, the unexpected occurred when the Arizona Cardinals upset the Philadelphia Eagles just moments after the 49ers left the field at FedEx Field. This surprising turn of events brought a sense of relief for Shanahan and the team.

"I got on that plane, I'm like, 'Oh, this is awesome, guys. We can relax a little bit, and we haven't been at this for a while,'" Shanahan said Thursday on Bay Area radio station KNBR's "Tolbert and Copes" show. "And then I woke up Monday morning, and I had to send everyone a FaceTime saying, 'Guys, actually, now I've thought about this, and there's no way in hell I can rest everybody. So you guys better come in with your mind right on Wednesday and not think that whatever we were feeling on that plane ride home is the same now.'"

The reality of the situation struck Shanahan. The starters couldn't afford a two-week break. It was about more than avoiding rust; logistical challenges arose as the team still needed to field a lineup for the regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Rams. That is tough to do if you rest 22 starters.

Shanahan began assessing the injury list, knowing there was no benefit in getting those players onto the football field this weekend. They would consume most of the inactives list against the Rams.

"I don't want anyone to get hurt, but if I could sit the guys in the order that you absolutely can't get hurt, that'd be great if that meant we could get another player up to go play that [position]," Shanahan explained. "But you can't. You only can get the two practice squad guys up. So once you realize that and you start thinking of all the guys you want to sit, and then you look at what that means to the guy behind him, and it's like, Man, you can't have just [Javon] Kinlaw and Kevin [Givens] playing 70 snaps at D-tackle throughout a whole game. They won't be ready in two weeks.

"And now, that'll get the guy that we're resting, he'll have to do all this, and he'll be hurt in the next game. So you look at the same at receiver, to running back, to corners, to safety, to linebackers, and it's a lot harder than you think."

Shanahan did make one thing clear earlier this week. Quarterback Brock Purdy will not play this weekend, allowing Sam Darnold to get valuable reps before the 49ers head into the playoffs.

Regarding the plan for Sunday, Shanahan added, "I've got to feel the game out. I've got to make sure I don't overload anybody too much. Obviously, I would love to get the guys out as fast as possible, but it's going to take a little bit of time, and hopefully, we can come out there. Our guys definitely got the right mindset. Our guys are ready to go. They're expecting to play and they are going to play, but I kind of just got to feel out how the game goes and make sure to get them out there as safe as I can. But we also got to make sure that we play this game."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Shanahan below.

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