SANTA CLARA — In the first 17 minutes of last week's 25-17 loss to the Rams, the lifeless 49ers stumbled their way to seven penalties, two botched shotgun snaps and zero points.
That was what they offered with the NFC West title on the line.
Now bravely consider this: What on earth will they summon with nothing to play for?
Fans may shudder to consider the possibilities, but the Niners (5-10) have been consistent in their message this week. They are considering one thing — winning — as they prepare to host the Cardinals (5-10) on Sunday in their regular-season finale, a game known in some circles as the Battle for the No. 5 Spot in the NFL Draft.
“We are professional football players and we are professional football coaches, and whenever we step out on that field, it's our job to go out and give 100 percent at whatever we do,” offensive coordinator Mike Johnson said. “That's how we are approaching it as a coaching staff and that's how we're approaching it as a team.”
The message is clearly being sent by interim coach Jim Tomsula, who joked Wednesday that he'd finally showered in the midst of a largely sleepless week.
Ask Tomsula about his plans for next week — the start of an uncertain offseason for him and the rest of coaching staff in the wake of Mike Singletary's firing — and he looks confused.
“Honestly,” Tomsula said, “I have not spent a second thinking about that.”
Some fans, however, are thinking ahead — a few months ahead to the NFL draft in April.
If they lose, the Niners, currently at the No. 6 spot in the draft, could move up to the No. 2 spot if a flood of upsets occur Sunday and, additionally, Candlestick Park levitates off the ground. It's more likely that a defeat will move them up a spot to No. 5, currently occupied by the Cardinals.
Regardless, it's safe to say the players and coaches — many of whom won't be back to greet the first-round draft pick — aren't up to date on the latest mock drafts.