Last time such a win happened? 2011. Jim Harbaugh’s first year. The 49ers had blown leads in Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks, watched Tony Romo overcome a rib injury to get a Dallas Cowboys to win at Candlestick Park, and then had the ugliest win you’d ever see at the Cincinnati Bengals.
And then, the Philadelphia Eagles. The 49ers found themselves in a 17-point deficit, which seemed like more of the same 49ers fans had grown accustomed to. At halftime, Jim Harbaugh looked to Alex Smith to dig them out. The 49ers would turn things around and win 24-23 and go win the next six games.
Harbaugh said something in the postgame address that always stuck with me:
“You guys are good. You’re a damn good football team, alright? And you know what? The longer it takes us to figure that out, the better we are. The better we are. Because we just keep working. And we just keep getting better. Day after day, we’ll be better tomorrow than we were today. Just keep doing that.”
Many considered this the turning point of the season—and the franchise—under Harbaugh. The 49ers were a different team with a different swagger. They’d only lose two more games that season and be two Kyle Williams muffed punts away from the Super Bowl.
Sure there’s the NFC Championship game deficit the 49ers overcame in 2012, but that midseason comeback was the thing that said they had the tools to do anything.
What does the Cardinals comeback mean? Only time will tell. The 49ers managed to clamp down in close games and dominate the field early in 2019. When it came down to needing a clutch overtime performance against the Seattle Seahawks, they just ran out of steam.
That loss already stung; overtime, against a division rival, with several chances to win where bizarre things just happened. And the Cardinals were piling on.
This time, 16 points down, and Jimmy Garoppolo had to dig the 49ers out. It wasn’t perfect, but not only did he win the game, his actions essentially said, “Oh, hell no,” at the idea of a field goal to send this thing to overtime. Instead, he lobbed one over an Arizona zero blitz to get Jeff Wilson in for the touchdown.
The 49ers now enter the hardest stretch of their schedule. Who the 2019 San Francisco 49ers are is about to be seen. Harbaugh’s words are the best used for this win: These 49ers are a damn good football team. Maybe behind the scenes, they still realize it.
And if it takes them a while to figure that out, maybe that will make them even better.