MIAMI, Fla. -- The 49ers have spent the week in Miami sharpening their game plan and mental iron for their Super Bowl LIV battle with the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Every team enters the season believing they have what it takes to win it all. Otherwise, why play? But in the 49ers' case, a turnaround this stark -- from a team that opened the 2017 season 0-9 to being in the Super Bowl -- is a rare feat.
So, what happened? Yes, the 49ers added more talent. Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander entered the equation. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is fully healthy.
To star tight end George Kittle, though, the answer is quite simple.
"We figured out how to win," Kittle said Thursday. "My rookie year, we lost six straight games by three or less points and then last year we lost like 10 games by less than 10 points. So like, that was the thing we were like,'Hey, we're almost there.' We were a good team but we just couldn't figure out to win. We just had to find different ways to win.
"Our first week in Tampa, we could have lost that one but we ended up having like three or four forced turnovers. We had more interceptions in that game then we did the entire year last year. We started making play and we got the ball out. We were protecting the ball better. Things started clicking and then once that happened then you start winning."
To Kittle, that Week 1 win, a 31-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, really set the tone for what the 49ers believed they could be and ultimately transformed into.
"Oh, 100 percent," Kittle said. "The Tampa game was 100 percent a turning point. Getting that win the way we did, then we went into Cincinnati and won big. Another big one was the Pittsburgh game. We had five turnovers on offense and we still found a way to win. If you look at the stats, the ball doesn't lie. If you turn the ball over in the NFL, you'll lose. We had five turnovers and I think we only forced one turnover and that was in the fourth quarter when we needed it and we got away with a win.
"So when you figure out ways to win ugly, I mean Washington we won with three field goals, I mean, if you can win doing that and the ways that we won -- we won a shootout in New Orleans, you know? WE were down 17-0 against the Cardinals and came back and won. All this team has done all year is win in every single situation possible. We haven't put ourselves in he best positions every week, but we figure out a way to win."
The 49ers have rolled opponents and won squeakers. They have relied on their defense one week, their running game the next and the arm of Jimmy Garoppolo when called upon. They believe in themselves and their will to win.
That steadfast belief in their ability to win in any situation mirrors that of their opponent in Super Bowl LIV. The Chiefs are as resilient as they come. They are 4-0 when falling behind by 10 points or more this season, and erased double-digit deficits in the AFC divisional round and AFC title game to punch their ticket to Miami.
Both teams know how to win at any cost, and they'll use all their lessons from this season to throw the final punch Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8:30 p.m. Thursday, 9:30 p.m. Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday).
Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.