Why the 49ers must beat San Diego

First, the undeniable evidence that a solid-gold preseason record means absolutely nothing in the NFL.

The 2008 Detroit Lions went 4-0 in August, then proceeded to compile the only 0-16 record in league history. Two years earlier, Art Shell’s Raiders had started 4-0 in the preseason (they played in the Hall of Fame Game) before losing their final exhibition tilt to finish 4-1; Oakland went 2-14 that regular season and seemed even more futile than that to those of us who watched the team up close.

And now, a meek rebuttal. Since 1954, the 49ers have gone undefeated through the preseason only twice. It happened in consecutive years, 1991 and 1992. San Francisco went 5-0 both times, each year beating the Raiders, Broncos, Chargers, Seahawks and an American Bowl foe – the Bears in Berlin in 1991, the Redskins in London in 1992.

And those SF teams were pretty good. The ’91 Niners won their final six games and finished 10-6, but were edged out of the postseason by New Orleans and Atlanta. They had to be one of the strongest NFL teams ever to miss the playoffs. The ’92 Niners romped to a 14-2 record, best in the league, before falling to the hated Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game.

So maybe going undefeated in the preseason means something in San Francisco, if nowhere else. And maybe that gives the 49ers something to shoot for as they take their spotless 3-0 record into Candlestick Park against the Chargers on Thursday night.

If nothing else, perhaps Mike Singletary should let his starters go two series instead of one tomorrow.

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