Originally written on Gridiron Grit  |  Last updated 5/6/12
Moving on from the Cardinals and Rams in the NFC West, I’ll be getting on to the San Francisco 49ers, arguably the most surprising team (positive version) of the 2011 NFL season.  After the Niners spent the previous eight years underachieving or just straight embarrassing themselves in a watered down division, new head coach Jim Harbaugh came from Stanford University and gave the team a chance to compete.  I expected them to barely miss the playoffs.  But in one of the worst quarterbacking divisions in football, Harbaugh coaxed a career season out of 2005 #1 overall pick QB Alex Smith (7.1 yards per attempt, 17-5 TD:INT ratio, 90.7 passer rating), ran the ball hard with RB Frank Gore, and let an already good 49ers defense allow the fewest points since the 49ers 1984 15-1 Super Bowl team.  The result was a 13-3 regular season record, a thrilling post-season win over the New Orleans Saints, and an equally heartbreaking OT loss in the NFC Championship against the eventual Super Bowl Ch...
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