PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 2: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers looks on in the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFL football game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 2, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 24-23. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
I listened to most of yesterday's game via the radio broadcast through my phone, but made sure to go back and watch the DVR'd version of the game last night. It took some time to calm down a bit from what I would argue was the 49ers biggest win since they beat the New York Giants in the 2003 wildcard playoffs. I'm not equating yesterday's win with a playoff win, but given how the subsequent eight years have gone, can you honestly say there has been a bigger win than yesterday?
The 49ers have plenty to improve upon as they move forward if they want to be a competitive team beyond just in the NFC West. However, in spite of their flaws, the San Francisco 49ers have put themselves in a position they have not been in for some time. Given how atrocious the NFC West is, back-to-back road non-division wins really are like gold. The 49ers may not be the best team in the NFL, but as we'll likely see with Football Outsiders playoff odds, those numbers will be going up even further.
I am NOT predicting a playoff appearance with this post. I'm not even predicting further wins with this post. The Boston Red Sox were something like a 99% chance of making the playoffs at the beginning of September, and now they're golfing and probably not watching a whole lot of postseason baseball. The 49ers are not in a position to get complacent.
What I am saying is in a division where eight or nine wins likely is enough to win it, a road win against the Eagles is monstrous. I had said earlier in the week that I would have been happy if the 49ers had managed a single win during the three game stretch that featured the Eagles, Bucs and Lions. One game in and they've secured that win. Now is the time to get greedy.
One thing that makes this win all the more valuable is that it creates a cushion for the team's continued improvement. We're at the quarter mark of the season and we can all agree the team has not put together a complete game effort yet. There have been some impressive offensive performances, a lot of great defense and some excellent special teams. Now it's a matter of bringing it all together for four quarters. But the team is 3-1 in spite of plenty of hiccups along the way.
That's what makes this win all the better. You want to assume they'll win every game, but we know they won't. They'll likely have some losses that we'll view as particularly bad. However, by getting a game like this in hand, it just makes everything a little bit easier. It builds confidence and character. It allows you to learn from your mistakes without shooting yourself in the foot. Simply put, it is a great win.
The 49ers could very well blow the opportunity laying before them. Jim Harbaugh has plenty of on-field coaching to do to improve this team, but you could make an argument that the most important coaching he'll now need to do is keep this team focused on the task at hand. Play-calling and execution are important issues, but the mental aspects of coaching have been a big problem for the 49ers in recent years. The team was 3-1 in 2009 after blowing out the Rams at home and proceeded to drop four straight and seven of ten to sink their season. I think Harbaugh can keep this team focused in their approach, but it will be a big test for him nonetheless.