Truth be told, there isn't much in the ugly category regarding the 49ers this year. Their only loss to Minnesota was ugly I suppose, but Minnesota looks like a team that is at least better than most gave them credit for at the start of the season.
The Vikings have a good young quarterback, a big, athletic tight end, a dynamic wide receiver/return man, an underrated defense and one of the best running backs in the game running behind an above average offensive line. That's a combination that gives them a puncher's chance against any team in the NFL, including the 49ers.
No, I wouldn't really term that loss "ugly." In fact, there really isn't anything of significance in the 49ers season that I would assign that term to.
However, in keeping with the Sergio Leone theme, let's examine il cattivo from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly".
Eli Wallach's character, Tuco, was known as a conniving, thieving degenerate capable of outsmarting most and willing to resort to violence more readily than those who could outmatch him with their wits. What about the 49ers displays on all of these "virtues"?
Jim Harbaugh and the coaching staff, obviously, all kidding aside, has shown the ability to outsmart the other team, take advantage of their weaknesses and resort to pure physicality and brute force when all else fails, much like Tuco.
I do not think for one second that it was purely coincidental that Colin Kaepernick and the 49er version of the spread option was unveiled against Tim Tebow and the Jets.
I highly suspect that Harbaugh, Roman and company wanted to prove a point, or rather several, to themselves, to the Jets and to the league as a whole, and Kaepernick was the vehicle to make that point known.
They essentially came out and said, "We can run the ball, we can gain large chunks of yardage on the ground, we can be more dynamic than anyone else in the league on the ground and we're going to prove it in a way that makes people stand up and take notice. Tebow, schmebow. Watch this."
It looked like the 49ers went into this week's preparation motivated in part by the anger lingering over last week's embarrassing loss, and the vengeance-minded staff decided to make the Jets bear the brunt of their frustration.
And it is a vengeful staff. This is a group of coaches that seems to thrive on proving people wrong and getting revenge on those who doubted them. Watch any of Greg Roman's post-game interviews after wins, especially wins featuring dominant, physical offensive play. There is a certain smugness and a definite I-told-you-so tone and inflection to his speech.
Harbaugh obviously relishes in rubbing it in against the opposition, to a pathological level, as evidenced by his two-point conversion attempt in the waning moments of a 55-21 blowout of USC while at Stanford.
The entire staff could hardly contain themselves after dialing up the perfect blitz-beating play to destroy the Saints' playoff hopes last year, with the memory of the Saints' blitz-happy embarrassment of the Niners in the preseason still fresh in their minds.
I don't know what the hell was behind last year's confrontation between Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz, but I'm certain it boils down to Harbaugh feeling slighted in some way and feeling that the win was appropriate revenge for said slight, with Harbaugh also letting Schwartz know who had taken revenge against whom.
Perhaps I'm letting my imagination run wild, but there definitely seems to be an edge to this staff, one that has rubbed off on the players.
Prior to the Packers game, there was doubt about their ability to stop the Green Bay passing attack. Instead, the game plan was perfectly tailored to take away the deep ball and force the Packers into the slower, more methodical war of attrition that the 49ers love to make teams engage in and that the Packers have largely avoided.
It was more of the same against Detroit.
The question last year was whether the 49ers could keep up with the vaunted Saints offense in the playoffs. Time after time what has been looked at as a weakness has turned out to be the strength in wins that are becoming less and less surprising. They repeatedly beat teams with the one weapon that was thought exploitable.
That isn't a random pattern but rather a sign of the team taking on the mentality of its coaching staff, the sign of very good coaching.
Against Minnesota, the staff may have become a little too guilty of hubris, much like Tuco, and paid the price for taking their opponent too lightly.
Against the Jets, they regained their sense of self and got back to what makes them who they are: a physically-punishing defense and an aggressive, stifling rushing attack, enhanced by deception and trickery at times and at others with pure force. It may be an ugly formula at times, but it works for the 49ers and, when it does, ugly can be a very pretty thing to watch.