And the rest should follow.
8-8 would have meant a lot more if the 49ers could have gotten one of those wins against a good team—other than the hot/cold Cardinals.
This is the one thing that everyone seems to forget when they start touting the 49ers defense, running game or Alex Smith’s “good” games last year: The 49ers have not beaten a really good team in a long time.
You can scrutinize over stats and pick out the ones that support your claims about the bright spots on the 49ers all you want. “If this guy didn’t fumble here, if just this happened here…” OK. And?
I’m not trying to downplay the achievements of Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and the other solid players the 49ers have, but the fact remains that the 49ers have not beaten a really good team in a long time.
8-8 is an improvement, but when three of those wins come from the Rams twice and the Lions, it deflates the record a bit.
If the 49ers and Alex Smith are going to take that next step, they need that “the 49ers have arrived” game. Next year’s schedule is full of those opportunities: on the road against Atlanta, Green Bay or San Diego. How about at home against New Orleans and Philly (even with Kolb)?
Not being able to perform against good teams like the ones above has been in the 49ers culture for several years now, and it’s not like the locker room and staff has been completely revamped.
Willis, Smith, Gore, Davis, Singletary, Manusky, all the leaders of this team have become accustomed to acquiescence when it comes to getting beat down by the big boys.
All of these players are used to being given a big dose of reality whenever they play the NFL elite. Singletary can be as "hard-nosed, smash mouth and physical with an 'F'" as he wants, but all that talk will become very transparent if the the 49ers have another ho-hum season and miss the play-offs.
The one position that this hard-edged confidence needs to come from is the QB. Smith has been making progress, so hopes are at an all-time high going into the 2010 season.
The culture in that locker room needs to change, and it has begun to since Singletary took over. Now the 49ers need to take that next step.