SANTA CLARA — For the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era, the 49ers will play a game that doesn’t have any meaning, at least in terms of playoff implications.
Maybe so, but Harbaugh still expects maximum effort and all hands on deck for the 49ers final two regular-season games.
“We have a lot to play for,” Harbaugh said Monday, less than 24 hours after the 49ers were eliminated from playoff contention. “Play these next two games like our lives depend on it. So, playing for a winning season, playing for each other, playing for the team, playing for the honor of the game.”
The 49ers needed to beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday — they lost 17-7 in Seattle — and the San Diego Chargers this Saturday and the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 28 just to have a shot at making the playoffs for a fourth straight season under Harbaugh.
Instead, the 49ers got eliminated because of a combination of their loss to the Seahawks and the Detroit Lions beating the Minnesota Vikings.
The 49ers advanced to the NFC Championship Game each of the past three seasons, with a trip to the Super Bowl coming in the second of those campaigns.
Therefore, all 48 regular-season games that the 49ers played those three seasons carried value in terms of their postseason aspirations.
That streak ended at 62 on Sunday. Yet, in typical Harbaugh fashion, he said that he won’t approach the final two games any differently than he does every game.
Harbaugh isn’t interested in playing the so-called spoiler’s role, either, where the 49ers potentially can impact the postseason hopes of the Chargers and Cardinals.
“Win this game,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a lot at stake. That’s the way we approach it.”
For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman’s Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.