Coming off of a 45-3 blowout of the Buffalo Bills, Jim Harbaugh found a pretty effective motivator for his first-place San Francisco 49ers entering Week Six.
Harbaugh made a proposal, using old-fashioned R-and-R as the proverbial dangling carrot to make sure his veteran group kept champing at the bit after its 4-2 start, highlighted by consecutive wins over the Jets and Bills by the combined score of 79-3.
"Yeah, that was a deal we made. 'Let's make a deal.' From the TV show, 'Let's Make a Deal,' with Monty Hall. Not a lot of them knew who Monty Hall was or what the show was," Harbaugh joked Tuesday. "But, just wind back three weeks ago, we said for every win they get before the bye, they would get one more day off than the four that you get under the rule. So, we're good. We're good for it. They were good for it. We were good for it."
The 49ers wrested sole possession of first place in the NFC West with a 24-3 blowout victory Monday at Arizona. A loss would've dropped the 49ers and Cardinals into a virutal tie atop the division with matching 5-3 records.
"We're going to take a small breath right now," said Harbaugh. "And then trust that we'll do the right thing over the break. Guys will continue to work out and we'll get back to work next week."
There's a lot to like about the 49ers for Harbaugh at the midpoint of the season. The rushing defense -- 87.4 yards per game -- is seventh, pass defense is second (184 yards per game) and scoring defense (103 points, nine touchdowns allowed through eight games) leads the NFL.
The long layoff -- San Francisco will play just one game in a 23-game span -- shouldn't bring rust in Harbaugh's opinion. Players can choose to be engaged in film review or be at the team facility for treatment and training, but no workouts until next Tuesday will be mandatory.
Harbaugh said the coaching staff wouldn't get the same extended break players have earned. They'll conduct a detailed self-scout of all three phases of the team, and prepare for their first game out of the bye against another division opponent, the St. Louis Rams.
St. Louis is also off this weekend but had a more demanding game -- a 45-7 loss to the Patriots -- and trip home after spending most of last week in London.
"Just the way the schedule falls, I guess if you had to pick where a bye comes, right in the middle would be good," Harbaugh said.