The 49ers need to beat the Eagles. I know the Eagles are really good and the 49ers are still learning. But the 49ers need to beat the Eagles.

What are the 49ers? They are a team with a losing record. If you go by the standings ? and there is no other way to go ? the 49ers are just another losing team playing out the schedule. Face it, we were promised all sorts of stuff before the season, mostly that the 49ers would go to the playoffs. Good luck on that.

You need to understand something. The Eagles game is the 49ers? season, their season in a nutshell. They have the privilege of playing an elite team. They have the privilege of playing a game with national interest and large implications. And they need to perform. Why is this game such a big deal? Because the 49ers? final two games against those flops from Detroit and St. Louis are meaningless.

Which means the Niners have two classes of games remaining ? a real game with real significance against the Eagles, and two joke games against two joke teams. They need to beat the Eagles. A good loss won?t do. The Niners already have had their quota of good, close losses. When we look back on this season, one theme will be apparent. The 49ers improved the quality of their losses from previous seasons.

Vikings 27, 49ers 24: good loss.

Texans 24, 49ers 21: very good loss.

Colts 18, 49ers 14: exceedingly good loss.

Packers 30, 49ers 24: heck of a good loss.

The 49ers need to do better than lose with style. Mike Singletary already told us he doesn?t believe in moral victories ? meaning close losses, the Niners? specialty. He believes in victorious victories. Let the 49ers surprise us. Let the 49ers defeat the Eagles.

Let the 49ers answer the basic questions in this, the only remaining game that can answer basic questions. Can they put pressure on the quarterback ? in this case Donovan McNabb? Can they cover fast wide receivers ? in this case DeSean Jackson, just about the most exciting player in the league?

(Parenthetically, why did the Niners not draft Jackson, who played college ball right up the road? That?s still a puzzler.)

Now, we come to the big question. We always come back to this one and it involves Alex Smith. Is he the 49ers? quarterback long into the future? I keep changing my mind on Smith. I admit that. One week I think he?s the long-term answer. The next week I think he?s an inefficient, slow, cringing player. I?m confused about the guy and I bet you are, too.

Let Smith prove himself against a good outfit on the road in bad weather. Let Smith overcome every obstacle in his path, no excuses. The good quarterbacks overcome. The good quarterbacks couldn?t care less about snow and wind and cold. They prevail. Let Smith prevail.

Let Smith end the uncertainty once and for all. It would be a shame if the Niners entered the offseason unsure of their quarterback. It would be worse than that. It would be disgraceful to have quarterback uncertainty yet again and to play another installment of the is-he-or-isn?t-he game.

Smith and the 49ers need to make their stand in Philadelphia. Making their stand at home against Detroit and on the road against the Rams is what weak teams and weak quarterbacks do. It would be Mike Nolanesque for the Niners to lose in Philadelphia and then win the final two against teams with three wins between them, and then pretend they accomplished something when everyone knows that would be phony. Let the Niners beat the 9-4 Eagles.

The 49ers have a lot riding on the Eagles game. They?re facing a stadium vote in Santa Clara and need all the momentum they can get. Let them beat the Eagles. They want to show fans all over the Bay Area they have a program they believe in and the program works. Let them beat the Eagles.

Maybe what I?m proposing seems harsh. What fair-minded fan could demand the Niners beat the Eagles in Philadelphia? Am I being harsh? The Raiders beat the Eagles. Let the 49ers do it, too.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular go to the Cohn Zohn at blog.pressdemocrat.com/cohn. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.