From the very beginning, this was the story.

Sure, last year's team had its issues too. But it had this aura about it, this feeling of destiny. There was just this feeling that nothing could stop it. There was just this sense, it would find a way.

Right until the very end, there was just this magic.

Going into this season, the story was this. On paper, this year's team would be better. But that wouldn't guarantee a better year. We'd had to replace some players, of course, but that would be the easy part. Much harder would be replacing the magic.

But here's the thing about magic. It can't be manufactured. It just has to happen.

And predictably, throughout this season, it hadn't.

This WWL stuff makes for a good story, but the bigger point is the magic was gone. Sometimes we looked like a Super Bowl champ; sometimes we looked like anything but. And going into these playoffs, the simple result was you just didn't know. Sure, getting the bye was an unexpected break, which gave us a needed injection of hope. But it wasn't enough to quell the doubt.

Last year, even going against Drew Brees, you felt that we would find a way. This year, going against Aaron Rodgers, you just didn't know.

Never mind the inconsistency we'd shown, in all three phases. The questions about our weapons on O, our health on D, and our kicker's head. Beyond all that were those damnable Packers, who've crushed so many playoff dreams. Throw in Rodgers' promise that he'd make us pay for not drafting him—more on that later—and your confidence just wasn't the same.

What a perfect time, for a little magic.

Understand, this was not about vindication. According to the mainstream press, only now would we start to learn whether Jim Harbaugh had done the right thing. Yet that wasn't true. Sure, to the shortsighted, Harbaugh's decision might've seemed bold, risky, or even reckless, but in fact he was actually playing the odds. He saw two paths: one would be safe and smooth and would almost certainly come up short; while the other, though certainly rougher, might well end up at the promised land. If you're thinking big, the decision is easy, and it's validated immediately. To judge it by whether it ultimately produces the desired result is nothing but hindsight, and that's no way to judge a decision.

I get it, though; the playoffs are where the story gets written. And when you throw a pick-six with your second pass, the play-it-safers will start screaming for blood.

But after what transpired next, the play-it-safers were silenced forever.

When you're talking about playoff history—and especially the Niners' history—you've gotta be careful when you're throwing around superlatives. It's smarter to just stick to the facts. In his first playoff start, Harbaugh's choice produced 444 total yards—a postseason record for a Niner QB—and 4 touchdowns. He gained 15 yards with every completion, and he rushed for more yards—181—than any QB, postseason or no. In the second half, he led three consecutive touchdown drives of at least 80 yards, turning what looked like a shootout into a blowout.

The Packers were a popular choice, not only to win but to win the whole thing. And with one of the most dominating all-around performances in the history of the league—one of the greatest dual-threat games of all time—Harbaugh's choice completely destroyed them.

Okay, so I used some superlatives there.

As amazing as his performance was, what was most amazing was how amazing it wasn't. This game was perhaps an extreme example, but this is simply what he does. He fires deep strikes—playoffs included, his deep-throw percentage is now #1—or else he runs, with equal explosion. He might already be the most athletically gifted quarterback ever, and assuming that Harbaugh sticks around, he might eventually be the best.

But what's most important, at least right now, is that he's brought the magic back.

Once he settled in, everything seemed right with the world. The O seemed to have weapons to spare, especially now that a former diva has taken his place among the elite. (And when do you think that started to happen?) The D seemed to be rested and healthy, with its all-important swagger back. And even the kicker was among the living.

I know, I know, we've been here before. And sure, this might've been just one more second-W, on the way to one more L. But something just seems different now. Given both the opponent and the stakes, this was our most impressive win. And though now we're going out on the road, our opponent will spend the week drying off flopsweat. And as for the AFC, the most imposing team is already gone.

Issues? Sure. This team's still got some. But now, it's got this aura about it, this feeling of destiny....

Which brings us back to Rodgers' promise. You heard it all week. On that defining night eight years ago, he was disappointed that the 49ers didn't draft him; but, he vowed, "not as disappointed as the 49ers will be."

It's interesting, isn't it? First off, if Rodgers wants to punish those who slighted him, he should probably start with his own head-coach. But nevertheless, for a while there, his promise held true; a lot of us were disappointed indeed. And without a doubt, he's still one of the best. But on Saturday night, the disappointment melted away, along with any remaining yearning for any man we haven't got.

See, we've got the Magic Man.

And there's just this feeling that nothing can stop us.