What a difference a year has made for the San Francisco 49ers. A year ago the 49ers had a 5-9 record and were led by Mike Singletary who was a week away from being fired. Today the 49ers are led by Jim Harbaugh and a group of coaches who know what they are doing. Before last season the 49ers were the picked as the clear favorite to win the NFC West. In the season opener against the Seahawks in Seattle the 49ers were embarrassed in a 31-6 loss. Singletary thanked the Seahawks for “kicking our tails” because that would light a fire under the team. The 49ers would go on to loose the next four games.
The Seahawks won the NFC West last season for the fifth time since 2004. They won it with a losing record of 7-9 but beat the defending champions New Orleans Saints in the playoffs. Harbaugh was hired the day before the Seahawks pulled off the upset win in the Wild Card round. Many of the NFL pundits picked the 49ers to win the NFC West last season because of the talent on the team and Alex Smith being with the same offensive coordinator. Not even continuity could save the Singletary debacle.
With a looming lockout and a new head coach the 49ers were not on anyone’s radar, including mine, to win the NFC West this season. Harbaugh was the coach to turn the team around, but the lockout would ruin everything. When you are a head coach that is known for developing quality quarterbacks and turning around institutions, a lockout no matter how long will not stop you from becoming the best. OTA’s and mini-camps would have helped but all Harbaugh needed was to get in front of his players to get them to buy into his philosophy. No one gave Harbaugh and the 49ers a chance because of Smith returning as the QB and the team signing castoff free agents. Alex Smith is playing like a franchise quarterback under Harbaugh and he has been able to make potential Pro Bowlers out of free agents Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner and David Akers. Harbaugh has developed an under the radar first round draft pick Aldon Smith into a beast and a most likely Defensive Rookie of the Year.
This season the 49ers got revenge on the Seahawks for last years opening loss. The 49ers returned the favor with a big home opener win with a punt and kickoff returned by Ted Ginn. The 49ers have taken control of the NFC West reins once again after eight seasons. The Seahawks were in control of the division for much of the eight years during which the 49ers did not having a winning record.
After a 2-6 start this season the Seahawks looked like they were fading with a new quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and one of the youngest rosters in the NFL. Since then the Seahawks have won five of the last six games and are on a three game winning streak. Jackson has the offense clicking with no interceptions and three touchdowns during the winning streak. Along with RB Marshawn Lynch the Seahawks have been able to score 30 points in each of the three wins. The 49ers defense will be able to stop Lynch so Jackson will have to air out in order to move the offense down the field. Teams have been successful with the deep pass against the 49ers secondary but Jackson will not have time to pass.
No matter what the Seahawks record the fans come out and are loud at the stadium for home games. Throw in a division rival like the 49ers who recently won the NFC West and the slight playoff chances of the Seahawks, we have a recipe for a great game.