Last October, the San Francisco 49ers were all alone in first place and already on their way to winning the NFC West title in commanding fashion in coach Jim Harbaugh's first season.
That's hardly the case this year as they prepare for their division opener at home Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks: There's a three-way tie at the top among 4-2 teams Arizona, San Francisco and Seattle.
''Everybody in our division got better,'' 49ers running back Frank Gore said. ''That's OK, we're all right with that. We like it like that. We like it tough. We're tough enough to handle it.''
After riding high for two weeks after consecutive blowout victories against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, the 49ers had little time to figure out all that went wrong in a 26-3 loss Sunday to the reigning Super Bowl champion Giants at Candlestick Park.
''You've just got to go,'' Harbaugh said. ''You've got ...