San Francisco 49ers gathering momentum at optimal time 

click to enlarge 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
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  • 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers hung tough late in the game to stun Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on the road and in the rain to clinch a playoff berth when few expected them to win at Foxborough.

Now, after a long trip home following their 41-34 victory, the Niners (10-3-1) must play a second straight game on the Sunday night prime-time stage when they visit Seattle trying to wrap up a second consecutive NFC West crown.

“This is a huge win for us,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “With Seattle winning, we had to win this game. It felt like a playoff game.”

The Seahawks (9-5) have scored 108 points in their last two games — a 50-17 win at Buffalo on Sunday after a 58-0 rout of Arizona a week earlier — so everybody knows it will be another important test for San Francisco’s stingy defense.

The 49ers certainly have some momentum coming down the stretch in late December as they gear up for another postseason run, one they hope goes one step further than their overtime loss to the eventual champion Giants in last January’s NFC title game.

Beating Brady and Co. didn’t hurt as San Francisco prepares for the games that matter most.

“It is real big and it says a lot about this team to travel across the country and play a late game, and in their environment with cold and rain,” said cornerback Carlos Rogers, who intercepted a pass by Brady midway through the first quarter and ran it back 53 yards to the Patriots 5.Several of the 49ers said Sunday’s game felt like a preview of the playoffs — with Brady and the high-flying Patriots’ offense against San Francisco’s opportunistic defense.

And this week should be no different when the Niners play in what is largely considered the loudest road venue in the NFL — against a team fighting to secure a playoff spot. Harbaugh is all for his team being tested late in the season.

“I think that could be a positive,” the coach said Monday. “I think the thing that the players were feeling and probably anybody that was watching it was feeling was that they’re two teams that — two very good teams, two hard-hitting teams — have a lot of pride in how they play, really came out to see who’s better, and wanted to be better and wanted to win that game. And it showed. This game will be the same, I really believe that. We need to prepare.”

San Francisco turns its focus to slowing down a surging Seattle team led by rookie quarterback Russell Wilson while also keeping hold of the NFC’s No. 2 seed in an effort to secure a first-round playoff bye. Atlanta holds the top spot at 12-2, while Green Bay is right behind the Niners at 10-4.

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