Dieter Kurtenbach: Write off battered 49ers at your own risk

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You can feel free to write off the 49ers after two games. Go ahead and say that the team and its Super Bowl aspirations are cooked, after two games.

I won’t follow your lead.

I’m a pessimistic person, but with three-plus months and 14 games remaining on the schedule, any talk about the 49ers’ season being effectively over is premature.

Don’t get me wrong — the situation isn’t good. It’s understandable why you might want to freak out. In Sunday’s win over the hapless Jets Sunday, the 49ers lost Nick Bosa to what is likely a season-ending ACL tear, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a high-ankle sprain that might keep him out for a few weeks. These key injuries, on top of a roster that was already exceptionally injured going into the game. Four of the Niners’ five best players — at least by my estimations — are sidelined.

But take a deep breath, 49ers fans, and repeat after me: “it’s a long season.”

I don’t want to downplay the injuries the 49ers picked up on the questionable artificial turf at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Bosa is as good a player as there is in the NFL — a legitimate MVP candidate on that side of the ball. Losing your starting quarterback rarely works out well in the NFL.

Feel free to curse the turf or the football gods, or both. But don’t say it’s over.

We need a larger sample size to make that determination. Let’s wait until at least October to write this team’s obituary.

To be clear: Bosa going down is a heavy blow to San Francisco, but it’s not a death knell. As outstanding a player as Bosa is, he is only a defensive end. The 49ers won’t be able to replace his production and impact, but they have a great system, outstanding coaching, and reserves that would start most everywhere else in the NFL.

And losing your starting quarterback is a big problem, too. However long Garoppolo is sidelined, you should likely presume that the 49ers will not win games. But his ankle sprain could be a one-half, one-week, or one-month injury. We just don’t know yet. Unless further imaging shows something more insidious in the next day or two, Garoppolo will play again this season, and probably sooner than expected. He’s tough and the Niners need him.

Football might be a sport of attrition. — it’s a ruthlessly vicious and cold game — and San Francisco has been dealt some bad blows. But the football gods weren’t able to finish them off Sunday.

Raheem Mostert, who left Sunday’s game at halftime with an MCL sprain, will play again this season. So will George Kittle, who sprained his MCL in the first half of Week 1. Richard Sherman, who has a mysterious leg injury, will play again, too.

And in the meantime, one of the deepest rosters in the NFL with one of the best coaching staffs in the game will be tasked with keeping the team’s head above water.

It’ll be tough, but doable — especially if they only need to do it for a few weeks.

The truth remains that it was unlikely the 2020 49ers were going to repeat last year’s 13-3 record. Situations like Sunday’s happen too often and without warning. Defensive excellence — the kind San Francisco displayed last year — is too difficult to repeat. The team’s division is too tough.

If the need to write something off must be fulfilled, go ahead and kiss a first-round playoff bye, well, goodbye. This year only one team in each conference will receive it, and we can all agree that in the NFC this season, it won’t be the 49ers. They were going to have a tough time landing that without all these injuries.

But nine wins should be enough to make the expanded playoff field. And if this is as bad as it gets for San Francisco, it’s reasonable to see eight more wins remaining on this schedule — even with tough out-of-division games and five more against the toughest division in the NFL, the NFC West.

Fight like hell, make the tournament, and see if you can play your best ball come January.

Will it happen? I couldn’t tell you.

But I can say that such a result is still plausible.

And that’s enough to cancel — or at least postpone — the funeral.


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