Dylan DeSimone of Niners Nation wrote about how the San Francisco 49ers started believing they could achieve great things after coming back from a large halftime deficit against the Philadelphia Eagles. Justin Smith said the win “cemented this group.” Patrick Willis remembered how the coaches led the way.
Coach (Vic) Fangio came in. He had every reason to go crazy on us. He said, ‘Guys you know what we got to do. Just calm down. Settle down and let’s go play.’ I just remember sitting back and watching him and being like, ‘Wow.’ Whether we lost that game or won that game, to me, just to have that was amazing.
While reading this, I remembered Donte Whitner referencing the same game this morning. It makes perfect sense. I remember thinking “same old 49ers” in the first half, one of the ugliest halves the 49ers have played since Jim Harbaugh came to San Francisco (besides both halves of the second Seattle game this year, of course).
After Smith stripped Jeremy Maclin at the end to seal it, I too started believing. Maybe not in NFC Championship Games and Super Bowls over the next year-plus, but it seemed clear that Harbaugh had instilled a combination of mental toughness, poise and optimism that Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary simply could not.
“Flipping a switch last year came after the Eagles game. We were actually down 21 points at halftime. That was after the Eagles assembled that team with all the high-priced free agents. They were supposed to be the Dream Team and all that. We went up there, we were down 21 at halftime, came back and won that football game. And that’s when we realized we were a good football team. That’s when the switch flipped and that’s when we went on a roll. We won seven or eight in a row.”
The 49ers would actually go on to win six straight games after beating the Eagles, although with that win and the victory a week before in Cincinnati, the 49ers won eight consecutive before losing to the Ravens in Baltimore. What’s funny is that all three players remember a different score at halftime.
Smith: “We go to Philadelphia, they are up 20-0 at halftime, and we are able to come back.”
Willis: “Last year we were playing against the Eagles and the Eagles jumped out on us big time. We went into the locker room down 17 points.”
Whitner: “We went up there, we were down 21 at halftime, came back and won that football game.”
The only one who was correct was Willis — the Eagles were ahead 20-3 at halftime. But the point still stands: every team needs something to push them over the edge from wondering if they’re good to knowing they’re good. In 1981, this probably occurred when the 49ers crushed the Dallas Cowboys at Candlestick by a score of 45-14. They didn’t win by a margin quite that large the next time they played at The Stick, but a win is a win is a win, right?