When the Mike Singletary Era began, San Francisco was a joke of a team. They had two wins over Hapless Detroit and Wounded Seattle. Despite fighting hard and repeatedly nearly pulling the upset (watch the first three quarters of the Eagles game again if you don't believe me), they were considered bottom dwellers.
But 49ers fans have felt a strange feeling since coming out of their bye week. While the league was busy laughing at Mike Singletary and his antics from the Seattle game, I spent the week telling people that the Arizona game would define the season.
Either the team would continue the trend set in the Seattle game and manage to perform worse than they had under Mike Nolan, or maybe, just maybe, they would buy into Mike Singletary and turn the season around.
Credit Mike Singletary, because the team went all in.
A slight improvement in last second game management, and the 49ers would have pulled an upset of a heavily favored Arizona team. It was a game where the hype was on the Cards to prove their worth, to show that they could perform on a national stage and do what was expected.
The 49ers would either be pushed over or the Cardinals or Arizona would trip over it's own feet.
And at the end, a great deal of the conversation was Arizona's fortune to escape a game they should have dominated because an inferior team dropped the ball.
Beating St. Louis the next week was a lower middle-class team beating a horrible team as they were supposed to. But anyone who had not watched the 49ers closely over the past few years did not see the signs in that game. Efficiency in the red zone and an all-around dominant performance from a team that was not supposed to be able to dominate.
Dallas was next, and a heavy favorite. Looking at the box score, it would be easy to say the Cowboys handled the 49ers. But the details of the game told a different story. Small mistakes in the red zone cost San Francisco eight points before Dallas had sniffed the end zone. They were the mistakes made by a quarterback in his second full week with the starting offense, and against Dallas, they were a game changer.
There is no guarantee that things would have been demonstrably different had San Francisco started up 14-0 instead of 6-0, but it would have made Owen's early touchdown grab merely cut the 49ers lead instead of putting the 49ers, the team who had dominated early, behind by a point. Things got away from the 49ers quickly, but they never gave up, a fought hard until the final whistle.
I walked away from the Dallas game frustrated, but optimistic. This team was different than the one that had coughed up late leads to Philly and New England. They we're fired up, and I was optimistic going into Buffalo.
After a terrifying game testing the limits of a bend-not-break defense outing, Shaun Hill ended the game with a kneel-down for the second time in three starts.
The impression that most took away was the continuing story of Buffalo imploding. The Jets, fresh off a reality check from Denver, would come in and rebound against San Francisco. Everyone was predicting it (save Keyshawn Johnson), while no one took note of the four-point spread or Accuscore placing the win percentage for the Jets at 51 percent, while San Francisco stood strong at 48 percent.
Another strong performance for Mike Singletary's team. Another stunner from the team of the 1980s. Do not let the score fool you. The stat sheet is far more indicative of how the game played out. Save for a few missteps, the 49ers dominated the New York Jets.
When the 49ers faced crippling moments, the turn over that cost them an early lead, an ill timed INT from Hill which led to a game tying touchdown, and a holding call on a touchdown costing them four points, they did not fold.
Over the past four years, when something catastrophic happened, especially against a strong opponent, San Francisco would fall apart. Drives stalled on any sack or holding penalty. Overturned touchdowns killed team morale. The team could be pushed out of a game at any second by any mistake. But it has not happened in the past two weeks.
Since 2002, I have learned to guard any optimism with healthy skepticism. But I'm feeling good about football again. I was grinning far too much after Sunday's performance to not comment on what I see around me.
Too many people are jumping ahead to Week 17, predicting Miami will be 10-5 and looking to clinch it's first playoff berth since 2002. Before they can go 11-5, they need to reach 9-5, and I'm not sure that is going to happen.
I'm not guaranteeing a win. I won't dismiss Miami and how well they have played of late. But, I don't think people are taking Mike Singletary and his team serious enough. This isn't a 5-8 team, its a 3-2 team (Shaun Hill Era) that was this close to being 4-1 or possibly 5-0. And they demand to be reckoned with.
My "Prediction" (frankly it is merely a guess): 49ers 24 Miami 17