SANTA CLARA (AP) — Before the 49ers created one of the NFL’s greatest dynasties, they were at the bottom of the NFL barrel.
San Francisco won its first Super Bowl in 1981, two years after going 2-14 in Bill Walsh’s first season as coach. That team began 0-7, which first-year coach Kyle Shanahan’s club matched with its 40-10 loss Sunday to the Cowboys.
The night before the game, Shanahan talked to his players and pointed to that valley in franchise history and the decade-long peak that followed, which included four Super Bowls.
“I talked to (the team) about how they didn’t just get to that ‘81 season,” Shanahan said Monday. “I think they went through a lot of stuff in those two years prior to that, some hard work, and had to grind out and find out the types of people that coach Walsh wanted on that team. I think they went through a lot of adversity to get to that ‘81 team. I kind of made some comparisons to that with what we’re going through right now.”
Sunday’s 30-point blowout was unlike the previous six losses. The 49ers became the first team in NFL history to lose five straight games by three points or fewer. That was a silver lining for a team focused on building for the future. Shanahan said the performance against Dallas was San Francisco’s worst of the year, and it showed up in the box score.
The Cowboys rumbled to 501 yards of offense while Ezekiel Elliott accounted for 219 from scrimmage (147 rushing and 72 receiving) along with three touchdowns. The 49ers managed just 290 yards in rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard’s first start.
Despite his team’s struggles, Shanahan has tried instilling in his players that they can replicate the rise of Walsh’s team.
“I’d like to feel we’re ahead of them. We don’t have the record to show for it,” Shanahan said. “But I just try to put it into perspective for people that no matter how tough things are, no matter how bad people say they are, that you got to be strong minded, you got to know where you’re going and what it’s going to take to get there. And just because it’s hard on your way there, doesn’t mean you can’t stop believing in what you think’s important and working at it every day. I think they were a perfect example of a team that did that.”
The 49ers next play the NFC East-leading Eagles in their fourth road game in five weeks. They expect to have rookie linebacker Reuben Foster available after he left Sunday’s game with a rib injury.
Tests confirmed that Foster didn’t break any ribs, Shanahan said.
The team might be without defensive back K’Waun Williams (quad) and right guard Brandon Fusco (biceps). Right tackle Trent Brown will begin the week in the concussion protocol after leaving Sunday’s game in the second half.
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