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49ers Entertain with Fourth-quarter Finishes

Posted Jan 6, 2014

The San Francisco 49ers continue to provide late-game heroics during a seven-game winning streak.

Jim Harbaugh knows his football team has been providing entertainment during a seven-game winning streak.

The 49ers coach also knows that dramatic finishes are not a problem as long as his team wins.

“Winning’s never an irritant to me,” Harbaugh said a day after the 49ers defeated the Packers 23-20 in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs. “I would think the TV audience would be highly tuned into the 49er games. They don’t turn off their sets when they’re watching the San Francisco 49ers. Must be very entertaining.”

More than 47 million viewers watched the 49ers beat the Packers. It was the most viewers for a Wild Card playoff game in NFL history, too.

San Francisco has been able to produce late-game heroics in many of the team’s recent victories. NaVorro Bowman’s 89-yard interception return in the final regular season game at Candlestick Park ensured a 49ers victory and a playoff berth. The key defensive play was followed in back-to-back games finished with Phil Dawson's game-winning field goals.

Harbaugh is not “comfortable” in those settings where his team is leading or trailing by one possession, but he does like his team’s chances of winning if faced with that type of scenario.

“Comfortable is never a word I would use in football,” the 49ers coach said. “It’s a confusing word to me. There is no comfortable, or comfort. I think our team is very confident that they have the players that are going to make the plays.”

Harbaugh went into detail on all the clutch performances on the roster in the win over the Packers. The 49ers coach believes his team has what it takes towin late in any circumstance. He also knows his players trust each other to get their jobs done.

“They know that they have a defensive line that’s going to push the pocket,” Harbaugh began. “They have defensive backs that can get the pass breakup. Linebackers that are going to tackle. Quarterback that’s going to make the throw when the throw needs to be made, or a play. Running back who’s going to get the first down when it’s third and three. An offensive line that’s going to protect when they have to do it. Receivers that are going to make the catch when the catch needs to be made.

“So, I think that’s a confidence that our team has. And a kicker that’s going to make the kick. And a holder that’s going to make the hold. Snapper that’s going to make the snap. There’s a good confidence with our football team.”

He forgot to mention a head coach that’s going to inspire his team and put them in position to succeed.

With the win over Green Bay, Harbaugh became the first coach since the NFL merger in 1970 to win 13-or-more games in each of his first three seasons on the job.

The Harbaugh-led 49ers are never intimidated by any challenge. Poor weather conditions, for example, served as a welcomed opportunity for the West Coast team.

“I haven’t found anything that makes you feel more like a man than to go, not only beat your opponent, but you’re beating their crowd, and then, the elements, in a playoff game,” Harbaugh said. “And both teams have to beat the elements. But, in a playoff game, to beat the elements, to beat the opposing team, to beat the opposing crowd, just nothing quite makes you feel like a man like that, that I’ve found.”

In the coldest game of the year, the 49ers drove the ball when they needed to produce the game’s final points. With the game tied at 20, San Francisco put together a 14-play, 65-yard scoring drive that took 5:06 off the clock.

“It’s fun to win on the final drive of the game,” three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley said. “We’re a clutch football team… As the season goes on, we’re comfortable at the end. When the game is on the line, we usually come through.”

The offensive line cleared the way for Frank Gore to pick up a crucial first down late in the game. The 3-yard run on 3rd-and-3 moved the chains and forced Green Bay to burn a final timeout with 56 seconds left in the game.

Following Gore’s 20th carry of the game, a 2-yard run, the 49ers used their final timeout and Dawson proceeded to to make a 33-yard field goal to win his first ever playoff appearance.

Clutch is one thing, but the 49ers will need to continue proving themselves in the postseason. They will need to convert their momentum as they head into a Divisional Playoff game in Carolina.

“You’re only as good as your last four quarters of football,” Harbaugh noted. “And your next four quarters will be based on preparation and your approach and then proving it. You got to go prove it.”

More Notes from Monday

-Harbaugh confirmed reports of teams reaching out to interview coordinators Vic Fangio and Greg Roman. The 49ers coach also said defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has received interest as well. Harbaugh added, “There’s nobody that’s got a better staff, in my humble opinion, than we do here.”

-Harbaugh continued his praise of Michael Crabtree and the fifth-year receiver’s numerous talents. “He’s a highly-competitive individual. It’s important for him to be good. It’s important for him to make plays. He’s got a lot of pride about his own personal performance and the team’s performance. And, he’s one of those guys that can really get his engine revved up for games and big games. And just, he catches the football. A lot of people talk about different things for receivers, 40-times or three-cones, how fast they run around the little orange cones etcetera, but pretty darn important to catch the ball for a receiver. I just have never personally seen anybody catch the ball better than Michael Crabtree does.”

-Harbaugh stressed the Panthers will see a different 49ers team with Crabtree and a healthy Vernon Davis in the fold. The 49ers tight end suffered a concussion early against Carolina and San Francisco was forced to alter the team’s plans without the services of its Pro Bowl tight end. Harbaugh said the 49ers are “more dangerous” now.

-Harbaugh offered an amusing take on what it’s like to fly home following a big win. “For me, it’s talk to the players and have some conversations on the plane and then I sit there in my seat and I’ve got the video of the game that I’m watching. And then also, our planes have a TV, so you could watch some of the highlights of the other games and a highlight comes on I want to see, I can press the pause on my video. I’m just sitting there, just me. All I need now is a cup of coffee and just happy as I could possibly be doing those things. And then when I run out of the video to watch, then start watching the Carolina tape and my mood starts to change as we start to land and start focusing on the Carolina Panthers. It’s a happy flight for me. Other people may experience that happy flight in a different way, but that’s how I do it. It’s very nice.”


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