Coming into this season, few were high on the San Francisco 49ers chances of improving on their 2010 finish. Given their spotty preseason performance, a mini-campless off season, a new coaching staff and the ever controversial Alex Smith under center, the 49ers were written off by a great many fans and media pundits alike. After a 3-1 start which included a huge come from behind victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the 49ers entered Week 5 with many still doubting that they could make it happen against a young, talented, well coached Tampa Bay Buccaneer team. By the end of the 4th quarter on Sunday, those in doubt (including Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan, Jimmy Johnson, Jamie Dukes, Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin, a host of other media pundits and a few doomsayers who shall remain unnamed) were presented with an abundance of inconvenient truths.

Inconvenient Truth #1: Alex Smith is a Good Quarterback
Before any of you think of calling me another "Alex nutswinger" or homer of the week, you should know that I was initially underwhelmed with the 49ers' decision to retain Smith for another season. But what you, I and everyone else that watches this team have to get comfortable with is that the man is no longer a liability. That's right, kids…Alex Smith has become good quarterback. Not great, but definitely good. Last week against the Eagles, he posted a 112.1 QB rating. Today against the Buccaneers he posted a 127.2 QB rating with an 11 for 19, 170 yard, 3 TD performance. Is Smith suddenly the best QB in the league? No. Currently, he's the league's third highest rated QB, with a 104.9 rating. But Harbaugh's influence on Smith is showing up to a greater degree week over week…and week over week he has become more efficient. This Sunday, he finally put together four quarters of good football. I am sure that there are detractors out there that will scream from the top of their lungs that "" (or some other flavor of the week football stat site) states that Smith is a fluke…and they will be wrong. For the first time in a long time, the 49ers are winning football games…and the play of Alex Smith has had a lot to do with it.

Inconvenient Truth #2: The Offensive Line Does Not Suck
Prior to this game, I wrote that the 49ers' entire offensive line would have to pick up where they left off in the second half of their game against the Eagles for the 49ers to have a shot at winning. The O-line did more than pick up where they left off…they absolutely dominated a defensive line that blew them off the ball last season. Adam Snyder was downright nasty as the lead for Coach Harbaugh's staple "power" runs. Mike Iupati was blowing guys off the line. For the first time this season, Anthony Davis and Joe Staley were locking down the edges against competent pass rushers. Jonathan Goodwin looked as solid as he has in a 49er uniform. The 49ers put together their second big day on the ground, notching 213 yards rushing against a very good Buccaneer defense. But perhaps the most telling statistic from the O-line's big day is this: 49er quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick were not sacked once.

Inconvenient Truth #3: The 49ers have a Pretty Good Secondary
Last week, the 49ers secondary surrendered 416 passing yards to Michael Vick. Even though the 49ers won the game, many (myself included) were a little worried that the 49ers were victimized deep by the Eagles. What a difference a week makes. For the third straight week, free agent acquisition Carlos Rogers collected an interception and is now tied for the league lead. Rookie Chris Culliver nabbed a downright artistic interception in the third quarter. For the second straight week, Dashon Goldson laid down the law over the top, delivering a highlight reel hit on Tampa Bay's Mike Williams which forced the Bucs' third turnover of the game (pushing the 49ers' turnover differential to +10). It is still early and the 49ers have a great many challenges ahead of them, but to this point, it looks as though secondary coach Ed Donatell has his guys improving, and that is more than anyone could have expected at the outset of the season.

Inconvenient Truth #4: Frank Gore is still Frank Gore
Two weeks ago, Frank Gore was being questioned left right and sideways, by fans and media alike. Had the 49ers "bell cow" finally become ground chuck? Well, if last week's 127-yard romp over one of the league's worst run defenses didn't silence the doubtful, today's 125-yard rushing clinic ought to have done the trick: Frank is still the man…and the man can still tote the rock. Big time. Gore averaged 6.3 yards per carry today, running inside, outside and pretty much anywhere else he felt like running. For the 49ers to enjoy the kind of success they did today, they'll need him to keep it up over the next 11 games.

Inconvenient Truth #5: Jim Harbaugh Knows What He's Doing
When the 49ers struggled to generate yards over their first 3 games, there were many that questioned Coach Harbaugh's play calling, going so far as to compare him to Mike Singletary and/or Jimmy Raye. The aforementioned noted, last week he outfoxed Andy Reid, the NFL's longest tenured head coach. This week he absolutely trounced Raheem Morris. Over the past two weeks, the offense that could scarcely muster 250 yards of total offense per game has posted over 400 yards of offense (442 against Philadelphia and 418 Sunday against Tampa Bay), pushing their per game average to 300 yards. In a mere 9 weeks, he's taken a team that hadn't put together a winning season in 8 years, installed a new offense and has them off to their best start since 2002. He's coached his team to its biggest win since 1987. If it wasn't evident early on, it sure as hell is now: Jim Harbaugh knows what he's doing.

And what is the sum of the aforementioned? It's what could end up being the most inconvenient truth of all (for the rest of the NFL at least): for the first time in almost a decade, the 49ers are on their way back to relevance. Enjoy the ride 49er fans. Enjoy the ride.