Jim Harbaugh has preached a week-to-week mentality to his team since becoming the San Francisco 49ers head coach in January of 2011. It is the idea that you don't want to get too high after wins and too low after losses.
There haven't been a whole lot of lows during his short tenure with the 49ers. After all, they went 13-3 last season and were narrowly defeated by the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
Adversity isn't being able to stay grounded while you are doing great. Instead, it is about being able to withstand struggles and avoid distractions. San Francisco did that to a T against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. In a game that they seemed to not only be playing against an elite team, but a disastrous officiating crew, San Francisco stood up and took it into their own hands. NaVorro Bowman had a timely fourth quarter interception of Aaron Rodgers, which led to a touchdown run by Frank Gore on the very next play.
That is overcoming adversity and saying, in no uncertain terms, "we have that knockout mentality and will not let anything get in our way."
Sure, San Francisco probably should have won by multiple scores. A call, or rather a non call on an illegal block in the back on Green Bay led to eight points for the home-standing Packers. A blatantly horrible pass interference call on Perrish Cox led to another seven points for Green Bay. Still, San Francisco was able to withstand these issues and come away with an impressive victory.
It became evident throughout the game that Alex Smith was outplaying reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. The 49ers controlled the trenches in the run game and were able to find seams against a weak Packers' secondary.
More importantly, San Francisco dominated Green Bay on the defensive side of the ball. During a four drive span the Packers put up a total of 72 yards on 18 plays, each possession ending in a punt. Rodgers, much like Drew Brees and Eli Manning during the 2011 postseason, was uncomfortable in the pocket and thrown off his game a great deal.
Moreover, the 49ers' secondary seemed to progress from last season. Chris Culliver and Tarell Brown were dominating as the second and third corners, taking elite players out of their routes on a consistent basis. Both Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson did bang up jobs in the back end of the defense.
Overall, it was a dominating performance for a 49ers' defense going up against what will probably end up being their most difficult test of the season. How many times was Green Bay forced to punt on four consecutive possessions last season?
Offensively, San Francisco was even more impressive. Alex Smith completed all eight of his passes to newcomers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. In fact, the up-and-coming quarterback completed a whopping 88 percent of his pass attempts to wide receivers.
Moss looked more like the player we saw with the New England Patriots in 2008 than he did as a shell of his former self with the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings in 2010. Crabtree caught seven passes and continually destroyed Green Bay defensive backs off the line. It was a stunningly efficient performance by this offense.
Take the win at face value
While the 49ers were mighty impressive on Sunday, it is important to understand that they simply won a single football game in September. This is a team that is looking for wins in December, January and hopefully, February, so early season headline reading probably isn't in the cards.
If San Francisco goes into their home opener against the Detroit Lions and they lay an egg, the win over Green Bay wont mean much. They will just be a 1-1 team after the initial two weeks of the season. Even if the 49ers come up like gold on Sunday night, they will be nothing more than a 2-0 team through two games.
Championships are not won in September. No team wants to be playing their best football in the first half of the season only to come up empty when all is on the line in the playoffs. Just ask Green Bay from last season. They went wire-to-wire as the unquestioned No. 1 team in the NFL. Look where it got them.
It seems like San Francisco took that step towards elite status quicker than any football team in recent history. With that comes expectation and scrutiny. You become the hunted, not the hunter. Every opponent targets you with their best possible shot and upsets become even more possible.
It took until San Francisco defeated the New Orleans Saints in the postseason last year before the national media took notice and declared them Super Bowl contenders. After one week of the 2012 season, the 49ers might be considered the favorites to bring home the Lombardi.
Those are some pretty mighty expectations for a young team with a young head coach especially for a franchise that hasn't been at this level in a good 15 seasons. Even in the latter days of the Steve Young era, it was apparent that San Francisco was nothing more than a mid-tier playoff team. Right now they have to be considered elite.
While we have no reason to question that Jim Harbaugh and Co. are looking too far ahead, it is important that 49ers' fans don't either. Great teams don't get too high when things are going well and they don't get too low after a loss.
Many young fans of the red and gold haven't experienced success like this. So, to give you some advice from someone that followed the team of the 1990s, take each game with a grain of salt. If the 49ers lay an egg Sunday night, don't come here speaking of disaster. And, if they win or blowout the Lions, don't come here proclaiming them to be the next dynasty.
We will have an answer in a few months. Until then enjoy a great football team playing up to the level of its talent. It has been a while since we have seen this in the Bay Area.
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