Two weeks ago, the San Francisco 49ers looked poised to miss the playoffs this season.
Now after ripping off two consecutive impressive wins over the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots, the 49ers look back in form. They look like the 49ers that made a run to the Super Bowl last season.
What changed? Why does this team suddenly look dramatically different?
I'll tell you what that is.
What changed is the team got hungry again when the Miami Dolphins blew them out of the water. They found that motivation, that sense of urgency to snap them back into reality. When a playoff-caliber team like the 49ers suffers a loss like that, it was a snap back to reality, a wake-up call for them.
"Absolutely, we've actually talked about it a little bit," said linebacker Fred Warner on if the Dolphins loss has fueled the team.
"I think that is just what we needed, that wake up call to really spark a fire underneath us and get that sense of urgency back cause we know what we are capable of. That wasn't who we were that week and obviously we have been able to put up back-to-back performances where we played dominant defense, so we just got to keep it going, stay humble, put our nose to the grindstone once again."
The 49ers needed to get blown out by the Dolphins in Week 5.
This team was just working through the motions without a care in the world. All of sudden, as they suffered back-to-back losses to the lowly Philadelphia Eagles and Dolphins, the Niners started to realize they were in a hole.
And no, the return of key players from injuries is not the major factor as to why the 49ers are back on track. They had their key players back against the Dolphins, yet they still got embarrassed. Losing that game humbled the 49ers and allowed them to look inward.
"We got blown out," said head coach Kyle Shanahan at his presser Monday regarding the loss to Miami. "And as I've said a bunch, it was a very embarrassing loss, but when you watch that tape and I wasn't trying to BS the players, there was a lot of things to be encouraged about.
"There were some things that I did like and that I thought we had gotten better at. You saw some stuff that, guys, this isn't as bad as it seemed. We're going to get better or worse from it. If we sit here and we feel sorry for ourselves and start trying to point fingers and don't go to work, then this Miami game will be the start of something that is going to be bad."
Nobody pointed the finger at each other aside from pointing it at themselves internally. At least, that is what it has looked like in the past two wins since all of a sudden players who were playing terribly, Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey, have grounded themselves and played well.
All of a sudden the offensive line starts playing cohesively. All of a sudden players are being held accountable as there was a severe lack of leadership. Notice how Williams and McGlinchey are not being hounded anymore. In McGlinchey's case, he just needed "armchair quarterbacks" to hurl insults on Twitter at him to get him going following the loss to the Dolphins, so kudos to Twitter for getting him back into form.
After the loss to the Dolphins, that put the 49ers at 2-3. They were going from their easiest five-game stretch to their toughest. There wasn't any reason to believe that they were going to win more than one game, which is what I thought all they would manage given how poor they looked.
But thanks to the Dolphins, and maybe even Twitter, the 49ers look like themselves. No more is Shanahan getting cute on offense. No more are players performing as if they have a wide margin for error. What you see now is a team that realizes it is time put their foot on the gas pedal and floor it.