No Harbaugh salvos as 49ers enter bye on roll
"I'd really love to get the focus back on that and what the players did in this football game," Harbaugh said, "because I think it was remarkable the way both sides were competing, the way our guys found a way to win against some uphill odds in a tough environment.
"I don't think I've ever been a part of or even watched a bigger football game as far as tough play on both sides. I really felt our team came together through adversity, tough conditions to play in, and our guys hung together. I think something special is going on here."
Indeed, it is.
The 49ers cruise into their bye week after an eventful and impressive 5-1 start, their best record after six games since 1998. The Niners are riding their first four-game winning streak since 2001 and own a 2 ½-game lead in the NFC West.
They also are starting to become a prominent early player in the NFC pecking order. If the playoffs were to begin today, the 49ers would hold the No. 2 seed in the NFC and receive a first-round bye. The undefeated Green Bay Packers (6-0) are the only team in the NFL with a better record.
Now the Niners face the prospect of getting better. They are riding a wave of impressive victories – three of them on the road in the Eastern time zone – without their best play-maker in the receiving game, Braylon Edwards. Edwards limped off the field during the team's only loss, a 27-24 overtime defeat to Dallas.
Edwards could certainly help a passing game that's been efficient but that has lacked explosion. While quarterback Alex Smith is greatly improved this year, the down-field element is missing. Edwards is needed all the more after Joshua Morgan was lost for the season at the end of the 48-3 blowout win of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Niners also are likely to return fullback Moran Norris (fibula) and cornerback Tramaine Brock (finger), after the bye.
The 49ers will need everybody, because they are not only winning, but they're alienating teams as they do it. Harbaugh piled points on the Bucs, and then he nearly got into a fight with Lions coach Jim Schwartz at the end of the 49ers' emotional win in Detroit.
Harbaugh was leaping for joy when he met Schwartz at midfield and thwacked him on the back. According to Schwartz, he also yelled an obscenity. Schwartz then chased him and jostled him down the field until both coaches reached the tunnel. Players from both teams then stepped in as Schwartz went into the tunnel and Harbaugh was restrained by an official.
Harbaugh fielded several questions about the subject Monday, and the coach knew they were coming.
"It was an unfortunate incident that went on after the game, and I take accountability and responsibility for my part in it," Harbaugh said. "Any message that showed after the game wasn't about the game itself. I think you can get better at everything, and we're always striving to get better. And personally, I can get better at the postgame handshake, and I'll work to do that."
Harbaugh's reputation for riling the opposition goes back to his playing days. Commenting on the incident, fellow former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason said Harbaugh was a hyper-competitive player who could rub others the wrong way.
That continued as a college coach when he refused to let up against USC in a 2009, 55-21 blowout. At the end of that game then USC coach Pete Carroll tersely said, "What's your deal?" Harbaugh instantly shot back, "What's YOUR deal?"
When Carroll's Seahawks played the 49ers in the opener, neither coach held a grudge. However, one has to wonder how the tight NFL coaching community will react to Harbaugh if he continues such antics.
In the case of Stanford, Harbaugh's lack of "protocol" as Schwartz dubbed it didn't hurt him. In 2010, Stanford finished 12-1 and battered Virginia Tech 40-12 in the Orange Bowl.
Harbaugh declined to take any shots at Schwartz when given that opportunity Monday.
"We're not here today to throw any salvos," Harbaugh said. "There's not going to be any salvos coming out of the West Coast. I have a lot of respect for Jim and the Detroit Lions. I had many heated battles with the Detroit Lions through the years, and this was probably the most heated from the beginning, and then at the end of the ball game."
And, in summary, Harbaugh didn't feel his part in the heated exchange that followed the game was anything that required an apology.
"No, I don't think that there's any reason for an apology," Harbaugh said. "But I do feel that, like I said before, we spoke about it after the game and at some point we will talk in private. Apologies always seem to be like excuses. We'll just try to do better. Work on the post-game handshake."
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