“To me, there’s still 11 more games,” 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said in an interview room at MetLife Stadium early Monday morning. “We have an opportunity to go 12-4. That’s a good record, and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
That’s both a lofty goal and a bold statement from a quarterback who only recently emerged from the worst two-game funk of his career and whose team has lost four games in a row.
But it nicely captures an interesting dichotomy at 49ers headquarters: The team has been one of the league’s worst through five games, but there’s a sense of optimism that a turnaround is imminent. Several players noted after the game that even though the 49ers have four losses, only one has been against a division opponent.
“When we get to those (division) games, we’ve got to win them,” safety Eric Reid said. “If you come out on top in the division, the season’s turned around.”
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Part of that confidence stems from the offense’s re-emergence in Sunday’s loss to the Giants. After scoring just 10 points in the previous two games combined, the 49ers scored a season-high 27 points.
Defenses have been challenging Kaepernick to beat them, and on Sunday he nearly did. He exploited one-on-one coverage, helped the 49ers convert 57 percent of their third downs and threw downfield. The 49ers had four pass plays of 20 yards or more after having just six in the first four games.
Several players said after the game that Kaepernick seemed far more loose than he did during the previous two games, which were such flops his starting job seemed in danger if he had another clunker against the Giants.
“When you play with the weight of the world on your shoulders, I don’t believe you can play that way,” coach Jim Tomsula said Monday when asked about Kaepernick’s reversal.
It’s also possible the 49ers found a better solution for the offensive-line issues that have plagued them.
Jordan Devey began the game at right guard, but Andrew Tiller, who was elevated from the practice squad Saturday, alternated with Devey beginning in the second quarter and played well. The scouting service Pro Football Focus gave Tiller a plus-1.1 grade; Devey finished with a minus-1.1 mark.
Tomsula was noncommittal when asked if Tiller would replace Devey.
“I like both of them,” Tomsula said. “Tiller’s a big, strong, heavy-handed guy. I’ve just admired the way he’s worked since he got here last year. He was obviously on the practice squad. We went against him a lot, defensive line-wise, and he’s just a guy that I noticed.”
The 49ers rushed for 124 yards against the Giants, who entered the game first in the league against the run. New York, however, was without two starting defensive linemen and a starting linebacker, then lost another starting linebacker, Jon Beason, to a concussion.
“It’s one of those tough games,” 49ers guard Alex Boone said. “Because you feel like you did some really good things. But then you look back on it and you remember you lost. Which is always hard.”
Et cetera – Tomsula said at this point last week the team expected tight end Vernon Davis (knee) to play, but t the joint didn’t respond as anticipated during Friday’s practice. Davis remained in Santa Clara to rehabilitate during the team’s trip to New Jersey.
▪ Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks is expected to rejoin the team this week following the death of his sister last week in Louisiana. Tomsula said the funeral is this week.
▪ Running back Reggie Bush left Sunday’s game after he felt his calf, which he injured in Week 1, tighten. The 49ers are optimistic the veteran avoided straining the muscle again.