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Adversity-filled season has 49ers prepped for tough road ahead

Posted: Friday, Jan 3rd, 2014

The last Super Bowl loser that returned to the biggest sporting event in America and took home the Lombardi trophy was the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

That is a 41-year drought that the 49ers are trying to erase and it won’t be an easy task -- especially with a stacked NFC playoff bracket.

“I don’t see why we can’t,” starting receiver Anquan Boldin said of the 49ers rattling off three straight victories in the playoffs, beginning with Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers. “We’re suited perfectly. . . . We’re more than ready to make a run.”

The San Francisco 49ers have proved people wrong many times this season while fighting through adversity.

The tough times came even before the season when they suffered two catastrophic injuries.

Michael Crabtree -- fresh off his best year in the NFL -- tore his Achilles tendon and Chris Culliver, who was a major contributor to the 49ers turnover creating secondary, tore his ACL.

The former brought up serious questions as to how the 49ers offense would operate without arguably its most dynamic piece.

But a 206-yard performance from offseason steal Boldin silenced those questions, if only for a moment.

Third-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick followed up the career-best performance against the Green Bay Packers (27 of 29, 412 yards and 3 touchdowns) with his two worst.

In back-to-back blowout losses against the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts Kaepernick dropped quarterback ratings of 20.1 and 49.9.

His average this season is 91.6.

It was the first time San Francisco had lost two games in a row in the Jim Harbaugh era, and the first time there was ever doubt in the 49ers’ chances of making it back to the Super Bowl, let alone the playoffs.

Not only did they lose two games in a row they lost another critical piece. All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith was given a leave of absence to deal with personal issues after he crashed into a tree while driving under the influence. It was his second DUI charge.

But somehow they found a way to get through it.

They reeled off five wins in a row before falling into their second slump of 2013.

Again, San Francisco lost two games in a row, and with just six games left while sitting at 6-4, the Seahawks pulling away for the division title and the Arizona Cardinals catching fire, playoffs and the “Quest for Six” seemed like a thought out of a Disney movie.

Yet once again the 49ers regrouped, reloaded and returned to the top of the NFL with a six-game winning streak to end the season.

Through that streak they had to come from behind to beat Seattle, Navarro Bowman had to come away with the greatest defensive play in 49ers’ stay at Candlestick and they survived a duel in the desert with Arizona with a last second field goal.

“We haven’t done as well from time to time,” said 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. “But we’ve had some injuries and what-not and I think we’ve overcome a lot this year, really a lot.”

San Francisco held down the fort while Crabtree nursed himself back to health, they made it through the Smith situation and they weathered the storm while Kaepernick found his mojo of a year ago.

Now, they’ll have to deal with the negative degree weather and possibly playing without two of their cornerbacks, Carlos Rogers and Eric Wright, in the impending NFC Wildcard matchup against the Packers Sunday. And if they can win that battle at the frozen tundra they’ll either find themselves at Carolina, or at the site of their two ugliest losses in the last two years: CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

As the No. 5 the odds are certainly stacked against them but as we’ve seen this season the 49ers have done their best work with their backs against the wall.

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