AP file photoKeeping hope alive: 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has led the team to four late comebacks already this year

AP file photoKeeping hope alive: 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has led the team to four late comebacks already this year

Niners can’t hang their hats on biggest win of year yet

Quit the giggling. There’s work left to be done.

When the 49ers, holders of the NFL’s second-best record take the field this afternoon, they’ll find themselves facing a new challenge. They’re supposed to beat the Arizona Cardinals, the first of five seemingly easy affairs left on their schedule.

The rest of the doubts about these 49ers were erased last week when they beat the New York Giants with Frank Gore gaining a grand total of zero yards. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

Yet, that’s what this season has blossomed into — knocking one thing after another off a list of things that weren’t supposed to happen.

The 49ers weren’t supposed to be able to travel. But they went back East and won — over and over again.

They weren’t supposed to be able to beat really good teams. The Giants, Eagles and Lions were considered really good teams when the 49ers beat them.

They weren’t supposed to be able to win when they couldn’t run the ball. Check last week’s box score.

But the biggest thing that wasn’t supposed to happen — not yet at least, not to these 49ers, not with Alex Smith as their quarterback — was that the 49ers have made it feel as if the last six years never happened.

And that’s a great thing for Smith, who has put together four fourth-quarter come-from-behind victories this season, tying him with Eli Manning for the most in the league this year.

“Now teams know what Alex can do under pressure,” tight end Delanie Walker said. “We feel like [the Giants game] was a playoff-caliber game, and he came through for us. He made some great calls and made some great plays with his feet and his arm.

“That’s what we need out of Alex Smith and he’s been doing it all along. Now everybody out there can see that we have a great quarterback leading a great team.”

The Niners have two playoff-caliber games left — one versus Pittsburgh, one versus Baltimore. Regardless of whether its a laugher or a postseason test, a great team that’s learning to carry itself in an entirely new way.

“The buzz in the locker room is something I’ve never been around in all my years,” Niners tackle Joe Staley said. “Everybody is so confident going into games.”

A few of the Niners remember what it was like on the other side of the football, when fans were giggling at them.

“To us, it humbles us when we get a win even more because we’ve been on the other side of that where we haven’t won,” said Niners linebacker Patrick Willis, who has led a defense that has not allowed a rushing TD in 10 consecutive games.

The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in the past 31 games, which marks the longest active streak in the NFL, and lead the league in run defense, allowing just 73.2 rushing yards per game.

That’s the kind of stuff that has had the 49ers Faithful giggling so far this season.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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