NFL Films senior producer has a fairly regular call-in show with KNBR in which he gets a chance to talk 49ers football. It has been interesting how his opinions have sort of ebbed and flowed over the last three months as the 49ers have gone from upstart to one of the league favorites. Grant Cohn transcribes his interviews and you can check out his most recent at the Press Democrat.
Cosell discussed how the 49ers are "built in a way that always leads to success." He did not mean that they are guaranteed anything beyond their current playoff berth, but great defense, strong special teams and a solid running game are a formula for success. It is not the only formula as teams like the Patriots and Packers have shown, but it is one solid formula.
In his interview, Cosell said that if a team with that formula can maintain it they will find success. He then followed that up by wondering how that kind of team could perform if they suddenly found themselves down 17-0 in the second quarter. He said they really haven't had to be up to this point so "we don't know the answer to that question."
While I don't think we have a "consistent" answer to that question, I don't think it's a complete unknown. The 49ers trailed the Philadelphia Eagles 20-3 in the second quarter and 23-3 with 9:30 to go in the third quarter. The offense made a bit of a transformation at that point and was suddenly able to combine a quick strike air assault with a strong running game to come back and win 24-23.
That Eagles game is only one game and the Eagles are a wildly inconsistent team. This doesn't prove the 49ers can come back anytime they fall behind to a high scoring offense. If they went into New Orleans and fell behind 17-0, the odds are not good of a comeback against the offense. At the same time, if the defense faltered and gave up a sizable chunk of points, they have shown they can adjust late to potentially contain an offense.
I know all of us would hope they never get to that point of needing a monster comeback, but to say the 49ers have not proven they can do it is incorrect. This makes getting home field over the Saints all the more important. I honestly am more afraid of the Saints in the Superdome than the Packers in Lambeau. That's not to say the Packers are some kind of pushover. Neither is easy, but I think given the way the Saints offense is performing, it would be bad news.