Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

So the 49ers did what they were supposed to do and beat the Giants and have thus kept this desperate season alive.

It's an ironic stretch of 14 days that has seen the team face two relatively-recent Super Bowl champions. The Giants and the Saints uniquely showcase just how fickle the NFL is when it comes to bestowing power upon franchises. The obnoxious neighbors up the Pacific Coast are finding this out as well, and it casts a truly defining light on just how fleeting a team's chance at winning a NFL championship can be. Something the 49ers were already acutely aware of.

Sitting at 6-4 (with a sorry-looking Washington team set to visit), the 49ers are hardly in the dire straits they were two weeks ago. Yet, they're far from out of the woods schedule-wise and need to play at least .750 ball the rest of the way to potentially ensure their continued attendance of the NFL postseason tournament. They've suffered some key injuries, no doubt, but with the personnel available this is still completely doable for Harbaugh and company. Moreover, if this is going to be "The Year" (which we've all decided it has to be) then it could be that the 49ers are doing it just right, whether they intend to or not.

There are a lot of blueprints to win in this league. Some more popular than others, but it's obvious that getting hot at the right time is a big part of the equation over the last half-decade (see '10 Green Bay, '11 New York, and '12 Baltimore). It was easy to get down after what the Broncos were able to do on that mid-season trip to the woodshed for the 49ers, but one thing that was cathartic about the loss was that it was clear that Denver had their whole game clicking by Week 8 and the 49ers did not. Denver was peaking relatively early in the season and as the Rams just showed us, that doesn't mean a whole lot of anything less than a month later.

One thing the 49ers would never be accused of so far this year is playing their best game of football. One cannot really think of a stretch (even over multiple games) where they've strung three solid quarters together, let alone four in one game. The defense, with a very BIG hat-tip to Vic Fangio and rookie Chris Borland, has been consistently productive and at times dominant. Even with a slew of injuries and heaps of adversity, they continue to be the engine that drives this team's success. With the presumed return of Navorro Bowman, adding veteran leadership and providing a HUGE boost to morale, this defense could be better than any time in the last four seasons, even without the services of Patrick Willis.

So the defense has answered a lot of the pre-season questions around their performance already, but the offense continues to slip and struggle in the most frustrating ways possible. It's time to acknowledge (if you haven't already) that Colin Kaepernick may just always be a streaky quarterback. So if that's the case, we can at least be thankful we haven't seen the upswing yet this year. Save for a few halves of spectacular play, he's been as up and down as he's been at any point in his career.

Yet you look at the tools available to him and to the offense at large, and you cannot help but wonder just how good they can be. There is literally Pro-Bowlers at every position on the offense, but the total value of this unit is far from equal to the sum of its parts thus far in the season.

The 49ers know they aren't the power-run team they used to be, but they also don't have to be with the added talent of their Wide Receivers and their Quarterback. Yet, switching between the schemes mid-game has proven to be enormously difficult for them. They seem reactionary and content to let the defense dictate their offensive plan, a complete 180 from the "be-the-bully" philosophy the head coach traditionally dictates. They must be more strategic than that. You can still bully a team with three wideouts on the field, but when and how you present them is the key element the team is missing so far.

How that gets fixed requires more expertise than I'll claim to have, but I do have faith in Harbaugh and Roman to, at the very least, get some rhythm for this unit before it's too late. Every year, the offense has had its struggles, but they always find a way to light it up at some point or another usually when it matters the most. That "some point" sure as hell hasn't come so far this year, but there's time to pull it together and these coaches have proven they can do it.

This weekend against Washington, they have an opportunity to finally build some momentum and if they can win big (not implausible) they can send a message to the rest of the league that this is not a team to be taken lightly in any phase of the game. Should they get up big early in the game, I'd challenge the coaching staff to play against type and keep their foot on the gas and keep pouring it on until feelings get hurt.

This offense and the men who play on it are starving for production. You can see it on their faces and in their body language. Big names who are accustomed to getting big numbers just aren't satisfied with how it's gone down so far. These are prideful men, talented men, and being a below-mediocre offense just will not live up to expectations. You don't see any finger-pointing, and that is perhaps the most encouraging element of what's happened so far. They are still in this together.

Look for that team-pride to come out against Washington. With it, I suspect, will come the points we've been waiting for. With the points coming, the defense performing, and the Head Coach grinding as hard as ever, something else should come we've been waiting for a hell of a lot longer than that.

This is "The Year" and not because the team is better than they've ever been. It's because they've been struggling, and struggling together. Sure, individuals have taken exception to their role (Crabtree, Brooks, and even Gore a little) but road wins against New Orleans and New York after two of the more brutal losses they've had to endure, has shown that no one, to a man, has abandoned each other.