Posted by Yahoo! Sports - NFL - New York Giants News under NflComments Off on Shutdown Countdown: San Francisco 49ers could open new stadium by raising Super Bowl banner (Shutdown Corner)
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In 2011, the San Francisco 49ers defied expectations by winning 13 games and advancing to the NFC championship game, which they lost, in overtime, to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The 49ers' turnaround in Jim Harbaugh's first season was due to his conservative, mistake-free approach on offense and a Vic Fangio-coordinated defense that was impossible to run against, created turnovers and wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
More of the same was expected in 2012 as the 49ers doubled down on Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 NFL draft who had overcome injuries and repeated benchings to, with the help of the 2011 lockout that wiped out that offseason, win the starting job and be the game manager Harbaugh needed him to be for the 49ers to have success in his first season on the job.
The 49ers were humming along in 2012, as well, entering their Week 9 bye with a 6-2 record. In Week 10, Smith sustained a concussion in a 24-24 tie to the St. Louis Rams and he was replaced by Colin Kaepernick, a 2011 second-round pick out of Nevada. The rest is history.
With Kaepernick under center, or in the Pistol formation, the 49ers became a much harder team for opposing defenses to prepare for. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Kaepernick's threat as a runner gave the 49ers a dangerous option attack. Kaepernick himself ran for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in the final seven-plus games as the 49ers' top quarterback. In the divisional round of playoffs, Kaepernick embarrassed the Green Bay Packers with 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 45-31 win. In the NFC championship against the Atlanta Falcons, Kaepernick was the focus of the defense, which allowed Frank Gore and rookie LaMichael James to combine for 124 yards and three touchdowns, including two by Gore that erased a 10-point deficit in the second half and propelled the 49ers into Super Bowl XLVII and a meeting with the John Harbaugh-coached Baltimore Ravens.
The 49ers would come out on the losing of the "Harbaugh Bowl", but if it were not for Kaepernick, the score would not have been as close as it was. Trailing 28-6 early in the third quarter, Kaepernick was excellent in the second half, passing for 163 yards and a touchdown, rushing for 46 yards and a 15-yard touchdown that pulled the 49ers to within two points of the Ravens with 10 minutes to play. That would be as close as the 49ers would get as their final offensive possession would end with three straight incomplete pass attempts to Michael Crabtree and the confetti would rain down on the Ravens and the older of the Harbaugh brothers.
As disappointing as the first Super Bowl loss in franchise history was, the 49ers have every reason to expect to be in position to win it all this season. They have a great young quarterback in Kaepernick. Versatile offensive weapons in Gore, James, Vernon Davis and Crabtree, if he can return from a torn Achilles. The 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, an active defensive front featuring the best four starting linebackers in the league and Harbaugh leads an outstanding coaching staff that includes Fangio and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, both of whom could receive head coaching opportunities next offseason.
It won't be easy — they will face stiff competition from the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West — but the 49ers have every right to enter the 2013 season as the favorites to win not only the NFC West, but the entire NFC and could very well open up Levi's Stadium by unveiling a Super Bowl XLVIII champions banner.