Wed, 21 Oct 2020

Maiocco's Take: 'No Excuses' As 49ers Rely on New Faces vs. Giants

San Francisco 49ers
27 Sep 2020, 05:44 GMT+10

Matt Maiocco

Each week, NBC Sports Bay Area 49ers insider Matt Maiocco will preview the upcoming matchup and key storylines heading into Sunday's game. For more takeaways and features from Maiocco, visit NBCSports.com.

- Injuries.

There.

Said it.

Now, can we all just move on and talk about a football game?

Because, let's face it, this is an important one the 49ers will play Sunday against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

And, no, we're not going to discuss the playing surface, either.

The 49ers were built for this. They were built to withstand the obstacles, challenges and adversity that a National Football League season can throw at teams along this marathon route.

From the time general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan arrived in Santa Clara in February of 2017, they set out to re-build the talent level of the club to account for rocky times.

They not only constructed the team to bring in better players as starters at the top of the roster. But, maybe just as important, they added quality at the far reaches of the depth chart, even extending to the practice squad.

So as the 49ers look to keep pace in the loaded NFC West, it becomes less about Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Richard Sherman. And it becomes a lot more about Nick Mullens, Jeff Wilson Jr., Jerick McKinnon, Jordan Reed, Brandon Aiyuk, Kerry Hyder Jr. , Ezekiel Ansah and, perhaps, Jason Verrett.

"I think a lot of talk outside the building is about what we've lost -- not a lot about the depth and the people we have here on this defense," 49ers linebacker Fred Warner said.

The team's insurance policies are now responsible in large part for the immediate hopes for the season. The 49ers are at a point in their schedule where they cannot afford to hit any speed bumps.

After this game against the Giants in the Week 3, the 49ers return to Levi's® Stadium from this 10-day trip to the East Coast to face the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins.

The 49ers will rely on a lot of new faces - in some cases, individuals who did not even play last season - to keep the season alive.

Two years ago, there is no way the 49ers would have been able to compensate for the losses of so many frontline starters. We know, all right, because it happened. The 49ers fell on their faces and scuffled to a 4-12 season.

The 49ers must keep things together with victories against lesser opponents to buy time for the returns of a lot of their aforementioned star players. Because things will not get any easier. A challenging string of games for the 49ers begins Week 6 against the Los Angeles Rams and stretches through the end of the regular season.

"You can't replace some of those guys we've lost of course, but collectively I know we've got a good team and it's not just me who feels that," Shanahan said. "I know our players know that, and I know a lot of guys are excited for opportunities."

Despite the sinking feeling in the gut of every 49ers fan a week ago, the season is not over. If the reserves step up to the level Lynch and Shanahan expect of them, this team can still accomplish everything they set out to achieve when the season began.

It starts with Mullens on Sunday, who will make his first start since the end of the 2018 season. Mullens, who came to the 49ers as an undrafted rookie in 2017, has the right mindset to succeed.

"It's my fourth year," Mullens said. "There's really no excuses to why I shouldn't perform."

No excuses.

And includes the I-word.

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