The San Francisco 49ers took the New Orleans Saints' best shot on Sunday, surviving both the challenge of playing a talented team in front of their raucous home faithful and seemingly casting aside the multitude of distractions/injuries that have been a going theme all season long.
"I really feel like they played with as much heart," Harbaugh during his weekly news conference on Monday, via Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group, "as much hustle, as much fight as I've ever seen our teams play since I've been here."
A fourth consecutive NFC Championship appearance was always going to be a struggle to achieve in the face of countless injuries, the nagging (and annoying) Jim Harbaugh questions, and the controversies surrounding players such as Ray McDonald and Aldon Smith.
No longer are the Seattle Seahawks the biggest challenge in the 49ers' way, like they were last season. It's now about keeping the house in order when everything has seemed to line up against them.
They did just that on Sunday, and maybe just maybe, the worst is over.
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