The five best coaching performances of the Jim-Harbaugh Era:
1. 49ers 45, Packers 31; NFC Divisional Playoff; January 12, 2013; Candlestick: Perfect offensive game plan, perfect defensive game plan. The Packers’ defense couldn’t handle anything the 49ers’ offense did, especially the read-option. And the Packers’ offense couldn’t handle the 49ers’ blitzes and stunts.
2. 49ers 32, Bears 7; Week 11; November 19, 2012; Candlestick: Colin Kaepernick’s first start. The Bears expected the 49ers to run the ball. The Bears loaded the box with eight, nine defenders. Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman expected this and countered with deep play-action passes, trusting the arm of their neophyte quarterback. Their trust paid off this time. The 49ers blew the Bears out of the water.
3. 49ers 36, Saints 32; NFC Divisional Playoff; January 14, 2012; Candlestick: Back-to-back perfectly orchestrated touchdown drives to win the game. “QB-9” — Alex Smith’s 28-yard TD run — and “Vernon Post” are two of the best play calls in Harbaugh History.
4. 49ers 30, Packers 22; Week 1; September 9, 2012; Lambeau: Another clever offensive game plan, running Frank Gore outside and Kendall Hunter up the middle. The Packers expected the opposite; Hunter outside and Gore up the middle.
5. 49ers 28, Falcons 24; NFC Conference Championship; January 20, 2013; Georgia Dome: Poor game plans on offense and defense and the players came out flat, but the coaches didn’t panic. Even when they were losing 17-0, they stuck with the running game. The 49ers came all the back and won even though Kaepernick attempted only 21 passes.
The five worst coaching performances of the Jim-Harbaugh Era:
1. 49ers 31, Ravens 34; Super Bowl XLVII; February 3, 2013; Superdome: The 49ers were not prepared for the first play of the game — the offense committed an illegal formation penalty. The 49ers were not prepared for the end of the game, either. Jim Harbaugh didn’t use his final timeout on fourth-and-goal with the Super Bowl on the line. He allowed Kaepernick to heave a hopeless pass to the back pylon instead.
2. 49ers 17, Seahawks 23; NFC Conference Championship; January 19, 2014; CenturyLink: Even though the 49ers had Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree on the field together, the offensive game plan didn’t work and neither did the adjustments. The only thing that worked was Kaepernick’s improvisation. At the end of the game, Harbaugh didn’t manage the clock well, didn’t use his timeouts quickly enough on the final drive. The 49ers lost with timeouts to burn, just like in the Super Bowl.
3. 49ers 3, Seahawks 29; Week 2; September 15, 2013; CenturyLink: The read-option didn’t work and the 49ers didn’t adjust. The players came out flat and lost their cool at the end of the game. They weren’t focused. Neither was Harbaugh. He created a distraction leading up to the game when he made fun of Clay Matthews.
4. 49ers 9, Panthers 10; Week 10; November 9, 2013; Candlestick: The 49ers got out-coached even though they were coming off a Bye week and had one more week to prepare than the Panthers. Harbaugh and Roman moved the pocket just twice, and Kaepernick got sacked six times.
5. 49ers 7, Colts 27; Week 3; September 22, 2013; Candlestick: The under-center-power-run game was working in the first quarter and Harbaugh and Roman abandoned it for the pistol, which didn’t work. Harbaugh also made a mistake playing Aldon Smith a few days after he drove his truck into a tree while he was drunk on the way to practice.