The San Francisco 49ers surprised the football world in 2011, finishing the season with a 13-3 record and advancing to the NFC championship game. The 49ers ultimately lost that game to the New York Giants, but they served notice that they will be a team to be reckoned with in 2012.
Head coached Jim Harbaugh led a miraculous transformation of the 49ers from a perennial loser to a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. The job will be much tougher in 2012, however.
The 49ers will no longer be under-the-radar and able to sneak up on people. They are now the hunted and will get the complete focus and attention of their opponents.
The 49ers had one of the easiest schedules in the league last year. In 2012, they will have one of the toughest, as they will face many of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, including Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Eli Manning.
The 49ers return their entire starting defense, which was second in the league in fewest points allowed. In addition, the 49ers made several offseason moves in the draft and via free agency to bolster their offense.
The job for Harbaugh and his coaching staff will be quite different in 2012. Let's take a look at five key mistakes Harbaugh must avoid in order to reach their goals this season.