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Lowell Cohn: It's not a must-win, but 49ers better beat Colts today

Today's game against the Indianapolis Colts is a must-win game for the 49ers.

What I just wrote is a cliché, one of the worst sports clichés — and the world is cluttered with crummy sports clichés — “The 49ers just need to play 49ers football.” If the 49ers lose today, it would be their second loss. Two losses is not a tragedy.

Believe me, the 49ers will lose at least two games this season and they still could win the Super Bowl.

So, this game isn't a must-win game in the usual sense — that the 49ers are out of contention if they get beaten. But it's still a must-win game — and I apologize for the cliché.

What are we talking about with this must-win stuff?

Before this season started a few weeks ago, experts and so-called experts and self-appointed experts ceded the Super Bowl to the boys from Santa Clara. It was that simple. They almost won the Super Bowl last season — apparently you get loads of street cred for almost winning — and they are better this season and, come on, they figure to win it all.

Plus, they have Colin Kaepernick, the wonder child, and their coach is Jim Harbaugh who has the golden touch. That means, in addition to a loaded roster, they have been graced with mystique, the Harbaugh mystique — in a shortened form, call it the “Harbique.”

But if they lose — and I'm not saying they will lose — they clearly are not the team everyone assumed they were. A loss would be their second in a row, something that never happened in the Era Harbique, and it would show the whipping they took in Seattle was no noise-induced fluke.

A loss would mean the 49ers aren't the 49ers they have been reputed to be. It would mean, frankly, they are another pretty good team with weaknesses like most other teams. What a fall from grace.

Against the Colts, the 49ers are fighting to retain their elite status, their 49erness. Nothing less.

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