It should have been so much easier. More points were there for the taking. More chances to raise the personal and team statistics. Another chance to lay out more numbers that could be used to show the disbelievers that the 49ers are for real.
The most obvious observation in the 23-7 win is that the Niners did not play well. There were the two blocked field goals and a rare miss by David Akers in the first half. For a team that has excelled in special teams, that was a bad sign.
Add to that two errant throws to wide open receivers in the end zone by Alex Smith, and avid 49ers fans have to wonder if the “trap” was being set. In the end, however, it was a win. As we said before, there are no judges in the press box rating a team on “artistic merit.”
What it means is that the 9-1 49ers will get on a plane early Wednesday morning with the second-best record in the NFL. They are on an eight-game winning streak, the first since 1997. And for all that, people are scratching their heads. Are they for real? What happens if they play a strong offensive team, like Green Bay or New Orleans?
In the end, that’s what the playoffs are for. It’s not guaranteed that the 49ers will get a first-round bye in the playoffs. In fact these four things from the 23-7 win over the Cardinals opens up more questions about the rest of the season.