Sunday's 22-17 win by the 49ers over the Kansas City Chiefs was more what we've come to expect from Jim Harbaugh coached teams, a crisp effort with no glaring mistakes.
Indeed, the only real mistake in a game played well by both teams was Kansas City getting caught with 12 men on the field when the Niners were about to try a long field goal in the fourth quarter. They wound up taking more time off the clock, kicking a much shorter field goal and forcing the Chiefs to use their timeouts. When the Chiefs got the ball back, they had just over two minutes left and Alex Smith threw one of his rare off-target passes for an interception, which allowed the 49ers to let the clock run out.
It had been a tumultuous week because of rumors that 49ers players were down on their coach, Jim Harbaugh, most of that coming from the NFL Network's Deion Sanders. Anything that Sanders says about the Niners should be ignored because he doesn't like them. In his one year in San Francisco, he had to prove he could keep his ego in check, which he did, with extreme reluctance. When he started to act out at the Super Bowl, Jerry Rice told him to shut up. Sanders left after that year, happily.
Harbaugh is not an easy man to like, but he stands behind his players absolutely. He takes blame for poor performances on himself, never putting it on the players. From dealing with players over the years, I know they'll also play their hardest for a coach who has their back.
And that's exactly what they did Sunday. Despite injuries to key offensive linemen, the offensive line played well, especially on running plays, opening good holes for running backs, especially Frank Gore, who continues to ignore the calendar. The Chiefs were able to pressure quarterback Colin Kaepernick from time to time but not with consistency.
Even more important, there were no stupid penalties, no problems with the game clock, no wasted challenges or wasted timeouts.
The play-calling was more imaginative, especially the call for a fake punt on fourth down that gave them a first down, when it seemed they were going to punt.
It was natural to view this as Smith's return to the Bay Area, but neither Smith nor Colin Kaepernick had games they will put in their trophy cases. At the same time, though, they each had their moments, though Kaepernick's best one was mostly because Brandon Lloyd made a spectacular leaping catch of what otherwise would have been an incomplete pass. Lloyd often irritates teammates, probably because he doesn't hide the fact that he's more intelligent, but picking him up as a free agent was a very smart move by the 49ers' front office.
The rest of the season won't be easy because the 49ers are in what is probably the strongest division in the NFL. Seattle, the defending Super Bowl champion, is 2-1 and playing tonight against the Washington Redskins, which means they'll soon be 3-1, as are the Arizona Cardinals, who lost to the Denver Broncos on Sunday but have beaten the Niners in their last two meetings.
But Sunday's win shows that the real 49ers are back.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.