Home Local NewsLocal SportsSan Francisco Free from NFL’s Black Monday mayhem, 49ers’ focus is on the Super Bowl

Free from NFL’s Black Monday mayhem, 49ers’ focus is on the Super Bowl

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Quarterback Brock Purdy watches from the sideline with head coach Kyle Shanahan in the second half as the San Francisco 49ers lost to the Los Angeles Rams 21-20 at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday.

Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The Chronicle

As the annual Black Monday chaos raged around the NFL — complete with a surprise Golden State Warriors tie-in — the San Francisco 49ers prepared to start their second season. Their “real” season. The one they’ve been pointing toward since Jan. 29.

The 49ers had to undergo the 12-5 regular-season march; now, even though head coach Kyle Shanahan is probably not a Shakespeare fan, what’s past is prologue to what begins this week.

The 49ers reached their first two goals: home-field advantage and a first-round bye. They now embark on the ultimate goal: their elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy. 

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The 49ers will be in playoff mindset even though they won’t play a game for at least 13 days. Shanahan said they will get going with hard practices even without a set opponent.

Their divisional-round opponent will be determined this weekend, and the 49ers might have to wait until Monday night’s final wild-card game to learn whom they will play either Jan. 20 or 21. 

Their options?  In descending order of seeding: the Buccaneers, the Eagles, the Rams, the Packers. In other words, if there are no upsets, they would get Tampa Bay. But that seems unlikely, and the scenario that seems both probable and problematic is a rematch with the NFC West rival Rams, who beat the 49ers 21-20 Sunday and look like a team that could upend No. 3 seed Detroit.

San Francisco 49ers’ Jake Moody reacts to missing a 2nd quarter field goal against Los Angeles Rams during NFL game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday, January 7, 2024.
Sam Darnold (14) throws deep in the second half as the San Francisco 49ers played the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, January 7, 2024.

Shanahan said he didn’t think there was any benefit to ending the regular season with a potential playoff opponent. L.A. head coach Sean McVay admitted that he kept things “very vanilla … there wasn’t anything that we would do in the divisional round that we ran today.”

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Facing the Rams, the hottest team heading into the playoffs (winners of seven of their past eight, the only loss coming in overtime to Baltimore), is not a pleasant prospect. The Rams are re-energized by newcomers, they know the 49ers inside out (as the 49ers know them), they can handle the 49ers’ run schemes that baffle others. And there’s that little matter of playoff history: Until Sunday, the only time the Rams had beaten the 49ers since 2018 was in the 2021 season’s NFC Championship Game.  A loss that still stings.

The 49ers are a different team now, with a different quarterback, a best-in-the-game running back and a hunger that has been honed through back-to-back NFC Championship Game losses. But McVay witnessed a very big chink in the 49ers’ armor Sunday: the kicking game.

After the game, Shanahan said all the right things about rookie kicker Jake Moody, who missed both a field-goal attempt and an extra-point try, no-pressure botches that were obviously the difference in the game. Shanahan said that even though it was “a rough day,” the team is  “good with Jake.” Shanahan indicated there were no plans to bring in another kicker this week.  

But if you don’t think there’s some serious concern within the 49ers’ building about Moody’s misses,  you’re deluding yourself. The 49ers built this team to win a Super Bowl. Yet, their hopes could rest on the foot of a rookie kicker. 

Because the 49ers have been a scoring juggernaut, there have been few opportunities for Moody to make many field goals, let alone ones under pressure. He missed the only one he was asked to make, a potential game-winner in Cleveland. All four of his misses have come in 49ers losses. And even though the season finale didn’t mean anything, it was alarming to see Moody, who didn’t speak to reporters after the game, miss from 38 yards under perfect conditions.

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Though technically retired, Robbie Gould remains perfect in the playoffs.

Worrying about the kicker is a far cry from what the 49ers used to be doing on Black Monday. They once were one of those teams blowing up things and hitting the reset button. They now are a powerhouse whose biggest Black Monday concerns are that other teams will come begging to pull a branch off the Shanahan tree and graft it onto their own organizations.

Former defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is the latest success story, winning the AFC South with the Texans as a rookie head coach. His successor, Steve Wilks — who already has been a head coach — might get some interest. On Monday, there were reports that both Washington and the Raiders have requested to interview 49ers assistant general manager Adam Peters about their general-manager vacancies. 

The Washington situation is fascinating. According to reports, former Warriors general manager Bob Myers has been hired to help assist in the Commanders’ search for both a front-office leader and a head coach. Myers, a big NFL fan and frequent guest of the 49ers at games, once was hired by a team with an existing dysfunctional culture and an ambitious new owner, and turned things around in a big way. His ideas and eyes should be a great asset to that moribund franchise.

That’s what the 49ers were before the arrivals of Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. They now are a team favored to get to the Super Bowl, a juggernaut trying to complete that turnaround with that elusive sixth Lombardi.

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Reach Ann Killion: akillion@sfchronicle.com; Twitter: @annkillion

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