You'll often hear about the "24 hour rule" – the period of time in which players allow themselves to dwell on a loss. Through the first quarter of the 2017 NFL season, the San Francisco 49ers have had 96 hours to mull over all the "what ifs" and "could have beens".
There have been plenty of those missed opportunities as San Francisco's last three losses have come by a combined eight points. And yet, the 49ers sit at 0-4, desperate for their first win of the season.
It's often said in football that things are rarely as good seem and, conversely, never as bad as they might seem. That's why Kyle Shanahan is urging his players to keep that in mind ahead of a Week 5 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts.
"You try not to lose perspective and just sit and focus on 0-4," Shanahan said. "You go back and you watch the tape and you coach and you study and you try to get better. I do strongly believe that when you lose three games by a total of eight points, you very easily could have won those games just by one or two plays going different. If one or two plays would have gone different, we'd be 3-1 and people would probably be hyping us up telling us that we're something maybe more than we are.
"And then you've got to put that in perspective," Shanahan said. "You didn't make those plays and you're 0-4 and people might be telling you that maybe you're worse than you are. It all depends on what you see on the tape, which is why you try to keep it real and keep perspective. You focus on the process. What I can say is I do see some good things on tape and that's why I think we've had a chance to win all those three games."
Let's start with Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers took a 9-6 lead in the fourth quarter, needing a stop out of its defense. Instead, Seattle found the end zone to retake the lead 12-9 (following a missed PAT). San Francisco's offense had one final chance to score but came up short.
In a primetime showdown against the Los Angeles Rams the following week, the 49ers couldn't connect on a two-point conversion attempt to tie the game at 41. After recovering an onside kick, San Francisco couldn't get into field goal range for a chance to win in regulation.
Last Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco had two offensive possessions in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter in a tie game. In overtime, the 49ers got the ball all the way to Arizona's 5-yard line but failed to score a touchdown.
Those brief examples illustrate just how narrow the margin has been between victory and defeat.
"We've had opportunities in these last three games to win at the end and we haven't finished," Shanahan said. "That goes from the coaching staff to all the players. We've got to make those plays in the moment of truth that are the difference of winning and losing. And when you don't, you don't overcome those mistakes."
Shanahan's message to his team is in the hopes of keeping players loose on Sunday.
"If you sit and harp on what's happened in the past, what your record is, stuff you can't really control at this time, then you will press and make it a lot harder on yourself to perform," Shanahan said. "That's what I try to get guys to constantly do."