Each game is its own season.
That’s the message Anquan Boldin delivered to teammates after a walk-through practice last week, and it’s become the 49ers’ mantra as they try to turn their middle-of-the-road record into a playoff spot in the second half of the season.
“Everybody knows where we are. It’s not a secret,” Boldin said this week. “We’re the ones who put ourselves there. If it’s going to get done, we’re going to have to do it. We’re not looking for anybody outside to come and help us. We know that we’re good enough to make things happen.”
The 49ers halted a two-game losing streak with a dramatic overtime win against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. But all of the teams ahead of them in the NFC playoff hunt also won.
At 5-4, the 49ers are behind the Arizona Cardinals (8-1) and Seattle Seahawks (6-3) in the NFC West. The Dallas Cowboys (7-3) and Seahawks are on the wild-card spots, and the Green Bay Packers (6-3) also have a better record than San Francisco.
But many of the teams ahead of the 49ers still play one another. The division-leading Cardinals, for instance, play the Seahawks twice before ending the season against the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
The 49ers don’t have one obvious or vocal leader like the Saints (quarterback Drew Brees) or the Packers (quarterback Aaron Rodgers). Instead they have a number of respected veterans, including Boldin, Frank Gore and Justin Smith, who mostly are quiet but command a room when they stand up and speak.
“It’s kind of funny. There are a few guys on the team that are like that,” fullback Bruce Miller said. “He (Boldin) doesn’t have a whole lot to say, but when he does, guys listen to him and have respect for him. He’s played in this league for a long time and at a high level and won a Super Bowl. And he’s been in situations like this before.”
One of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s in-season rituals is something he calls “wise words,” in which he asks a player to deliver a speech to teammates after practice, typically the Friday before a game. Harbaugh was smart to tap Boldin at last week’s make-or-break juncture of the season, and he’s recited the wide receiver’s message several times since.
“The main thing right now is watching the New York Giants and onward to that particular game,” Harbaugh said Monday, hours after the win over the Saints. “As Anquan Boldin said, these now are one-game seasons for us, and that’s the way we’ll approach it.”
Said Boldin: “It would be a great story for us to (have been) 4-4 and then win the Super Bowl. That’s how we’re looking at it – every week is win or go home. We’ll approach it the same way this week. We’re looking at just keeping our heads down for the last part of the season, work our butts off, compete our butts off and when it’s all over, we’ll look up and see where we are.”
Et cetera – Linebacker Chris Borland was named the NFL’s rookie of the week for his 17-tackle effort against the Saints, which also included a fumble recovery in overtime. Borland will make his fourth straight start Sunday against the Giants.
▪ The 49ers ruled out nickel cornerback Jimmie Ward (foot) and nose tackle Ian Williams (leg) from Sunday’s game. Cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring) and receiver Bruce Ellington (ankle) are listed as questionable, but neither practiced this week.
▪ The 49ers could add nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (biceps) to the active roster Saturday. If that occurs, they would have to release a player.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.