As the NFL regular season melts into the misty past, let's make a startling statement: the 49ers are good.

Well, okay, for most of us who have paid the least bit of attention, this isn't such a shocking revelation. However, to some, it's just too much to process. Don't mention the 49ers' success to some national media personalities. Too many "experts" still doubt the validity of their success this season. After all, why would anyone give credit to a team with a 13-3 record? That's simply delusional.

The national pundits find all kinds of ways to express their doubts: For some, the 49ers' record was soft this year, which allowed for an inflated win total. Others concede San Francisco has a great defense and running game but just doesn't have the proven quarterback necessary to succeed. My favorite was that they only beat the reigning division-winning Rams by a measly field goal in the final seconds of the game, and that's just demoralizing. (Seriously?)

Someone even ranked the 49ers as "a confusing team" because they lost to a definitively inferior Atlanta Falcons squad. Although that contest was winnable, the 49ers were pretty banged up that game, missing half of their defensive starters, and it took a last-second barely-scratching-the-goal-line touchdown to beat them. Really, none of that matters since the 49ers aren't that good.

These are real excuses pundits have proposed throughout the year to explain why the 49ers really aren't that good. But one fact remains: a 13-3 record is pretty convincing. Let's look a little closer at their success this season: Nearly half-way through the campaign, commentators droned on about how the 49ers hadn't played a single decent team. It's certainly true their schedule was soft to start the season, which led to an undefeated record to that point. However, the end of the year brought some clarity to that. The feisty Tampa Bay Bucs fell just short of an even record, while still beating the Rams and giving Atlanta grief all season. The Steelers weren't the doormats everyone thought they would be without Ben Roethlisberger as they forged a playoff run late in the year. The Cardinals played better all season than their 5-10-1 record indicates. And the Rams, despite a pedestrian season, were certainly not pushovers at 9-7. However, those facts weren't available mid-season, and the critics decried the 49ers as simply "pretenders."

The true test would come soon enough as the latter half of the season showcased a parade of perennial playoff teams. The pundits offered their prognostications, and it didn't look good: the 49ers would fail the test and fall out of playoff contention. At least that was the conventional wisdom offered. A solid 49er squad had different ideas.

The 49ers began their toughest stretch with a loss in overtime to a strong Seattle unit, punctuated by a miss from a rookie replacement kicker on a potential game-winning field goal. They slaughtered the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers and sent them packing in a season that saw Green Bay post an overall 13-3 record. They lost to a steam-rolling Ravens team by a field goal as time expired in a hotly contested road game. They stood toe-to-toe with Drew Brees and his playoff-bound Saints unit in one of the loudest stadiums in the league, and won. They polished off the Rams and Seahawks on their way to a 5-1 division record and the top seed in the NFC.

So much for the "expert commentary."

Despite a bevy of late-season injuries, the 49ers endured and, in the process, gave us a season to remember. Yes, the 49ers, indeed, are good, and with the dream of the playoffs fully realized, comes a rising hope 49ers fans haven't had for a long time: they can pull for a winning team now and for years to come.

To their credit, many are beginning to warm up to the success the 49ers enjoyed this season. This weekend's game against a solid Vikings unit will certainly bring the whole season into focus and tell us how deserved that reputation is. Until then, 49ers fans can bask in the sunshine of a season well fought and look forward to that bright future.
  • Written by:
    With fifteen years of writing experience, Bill has been around the block a time or two. Other than that he's written for a wide variety of online publications, ranging in topics from academics and education to life management and public speaking. He has also written for regional publications. However, one burning passion drives him more than most others: his obsessive loyalty to the 49ers franchise. Practically born into it, he bleeds red and gold. He also enjoys public speaking and talking about himself in the third person.