The 49ers have plenty left to prove to the faithful.
Admit it. Despite nine wins and only two losses, the wonderful feelings stirred up in the 49ers Faithful so far this year were shaken on Thanksgiving. Is it really safe to believe? Is it finally time for the Niners to not just take a spot among the NFL’s elite, but establish themselves as championship contenders?
It’s been an awfully tough string of years for Niners fans who thought Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jerry Rice would simply lead to another era of Hall of Famers and Super Bowl championships. If you’re new to this, there was a time when the faithful had the right to believe the Super Bowl belonged in the Bay Area, and having that right beaten out of them over the years has proven tough to shake.
It has seemed like every step the 49ers have taken since their last Super Bowl has been a step backwards. They’ve lost games in more ways than you can imagine, a Sunday after Sunday whipping that has left many among the faithful wondering if they’d ever cheer for a winner again.
They hoped for Mike Nolan. They hoped for Mike Singletary. Now they are hoping for Jim Harbaugh.
But after 10 games of as much unexpected fun as a football season can be, the Niners took it on the chin against the Baltimore Ravens. They struggled and looked ordinary.
The perfectly legitimate reflex would be for the faithful to doubt again. You may have heard it in the conversations in the restaurants, at the sports bars. After the Ravens game, that winning streak seemed awfully long ago. All these years of losing may have made it hard for some Niners fans to stay positive.
The 49ers have to execute their game plan in a way that defeats the St. Louis Rams today, and moves them one step closer to becoming a dangerous team to play in the playoffs. Niners fans will be looking for signs of both.
Harbaugh has done everything possible to keep this team focused on the task at hand, and he knows clinching a spot in the playoffs is simply the next step.
“We may be ahead on the chip count, but we don’t have a seat at the final table,” Harbaugh said earlier this week.
True, today’s game is important. Not because it could clinch the Niners a playoff spot, but because it will allow the faithful to get back to that unbridled joy.
For the 49ers, the next five games are about becoming playoff ready. Today’s game is about getting the 49ers Faithful to enjoy the ride.
Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at email@example.com.