As 2011 comes to a conclusion, I can't help but hum the lyrics of the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun."
The year may be ending, but the season continues for the San Francisco 49ers. There is still Sunday's finale at St. Louis, and oh just that thing they call the playoffs, a place the team has failed to attend since 2002.
It’s a time to look ahead, but also a time to look back at a year that has seen the 49ers transform from pretender into contender.
We've only just begun.
The excitement commenced well before the season ever started, the day San Francisco hired head coach Jim Harbaugh. After a successful stint leading Stanford, Harbaugh was lured away by the 49ers on a five-year $25 million contract and a chance to prove himself at the pro level.
Hope outweighed doubt, but there were many hesitant to believe in a man that had yet to coach a single NFL game.
They are all believers now.
The 49ers stand atop the NFC West with an unforeseen 12-3 record and are about to secure a No. 2 seed.
That prior excitement has now matured into mammoth proportions as a result of players stepping up on a regular basis to make big plays.
As we look back on the incredible journey of this season, here is a list of the top five plays that have defined the team’s success.