Niners coach Jim Harbaugh is generally a man of few words when speaking about his team.
Sometimes that's all it takes to make a point.
“We're at the halfway point. We're not where we want to be, and we certainly have to approach these games as single-game seasons,” Harbaugh said this week as the Niners (4-4) prepared to visit the New Orleans Saints (4-4) for today's game. “Playing our best football is our goal — and winning.”
After three straight trips to the NFC title game, as well as one Super Bowl appearance two seasons ago, San Francisco certainly didn't expect to be on the brink of sinking below .500 at midseason.
The Niners probably can't afford to, either. Unlike the Saints, who have the luxury of sitting atop the anemic NFC South despite a lousy start, the 49ers are already three games behind NFC West Division leader Arizona (7-1).
San Francisco also trails Dallas (6-3), Seattle (5-3) and Green Bay (5-3) in the race for one of the NFC's two wild-card spots. Another loss could be costly, which is why Saints quarterback Drew Brees said New Orleans needs to brace for the Niners' best.
“In many cases it is not who you play, it is when you play them,” Brees said, alluding to the way his own team rallied for two straight convincing victories since their 2-4 start.
“They probably feel this week like we did a couple of weeks ago where you are in desperate need of a win. Because of that, we know the type of team that is going to come in here.”
New Orleans could lose and still be in first place if Carolina loses at Philadelphia on Monday night.</p>
Saints coach Sean Payton knows this, of course, but he doesn't want to hear it.
“There are two teams here that are 4-4, that are battling,” Payton said. “We're desperate as well.”