The Miami Dolphins come to town this Sunday, offering a whole new set of challenges for a San Francisco team that can clinch a playoff berth this week if a plausible set of circumstances falls its way. That scenario, of course, depends on the 49ers beating the Dolphins. And after what the Dolphins did to the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night in their 41-6 victory, they have the full attention of a San Francisco team that seems to have shrugged off last week's 27-14 loss in a first-place showdown at St. Louis.
"It's a good game to have after losing to the Rams because it gets our attention real fast," Niners coach Steve Mariucci said Wednesday. "We can't dwell on the loss. We've got to get busy preparing for a good team, a very, very capable team. I think if you asked this team now who you played last week, they'd have to think about it. We've moved on. We've put our full concentration on the Miami Dolphins. We are wired in right now for the Miami Dolphins."
That's not a bad idea, because the Dolphins will come to San Francisco with a three-game winning streak and with six victories in their last seven games. They also share the second-best record in the NFL with the Niners at 9-3. The AFC-East leading Dolphins are the second of three first-place teams the Niners will face in consecutive weeks. They host NFC East-leading Philadelphia next week.
"They're all big ones for us," Niners quarterback Jeff Garcia said. "Because nothing is set as far as the playoff picture for us. We play two first-place teams in the next two weeks and both have very good defenses. So it's going to be critical that we handle it the right way and we continue to improve and take last week as a learning example and just move forward."
After being held to season-low totals in yardage and points by a St. Louis defense ranked second in the NFL, the Niners will face a Miami defense ranked fifth this week and then a Philadelphia defense ranked eighth next week. The only thing the Niners are concerned with now is getting their offense back on track against Miami's strong defense. Last week's loss to the Rams, which ended San Francisco's five-game winning streak, isn't something that Garcia expects to linger or hang over the team.
"We've come too far in this season to allow one game to be the breakdown of the rest of the season," Garcia said. "We're going to come back. We realize that we have a great opportunity in the sense of being a playoff-caliber team and, in doing so, there's a tough road ahead. But it's a challenge that I think this team is very well prepared for, and very much up for."