First-year coach Jim Harbaugh has pushed seemingly all of the right buttons this season in turning around the perennial underachieving 49ers into a team on the verge of locking up a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.
Based on those results, Harbaugh has earned a little bit of leeway in his in-game tactics, but the stunt he pulled in the third quarter of the Niners' 19-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks confused many -- including his players.
Down 10-3 and facing a fourth-and-two at the Seattle 40-yard line, Harbaugh called a timeout and proceeded to rip into his offensive line. From the outside it looked like Harbaugh was trying to motivate his line for a smash-mouth fourth-down run. Not so, as Harbaugh delivered a theatrical performance that would have made Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon proud.
"It was a little bit of gamesmanship," Harbaugh said Saturday, via the San Francisco Chronicle. "I was trying to direct it to the offensive line, saying that we were going to run the ball, so let's come off the ball, in case (the Seahawks were) looking. We had a play-action pass called."
It's unclear if Harbaugh's antics made the Seahawks second-guess their play call -- the play produced a 16-yard gain to tight end Vernon Davis -- but the screaming session initially confused 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.
"I was over there standing there, and he was going off on the linemen about running the ball and being physical," Smith told the Chronicle. "I'm thinking, 'It's 4th-and-2 or -3.' I said, 'OK, what play call are we going with?' and then he kind of alluded that it was going to be the play-action pass."