The 49ers are here for Super Bowl XLVII - where they are favored over the Baltimore Ravens - because of the Eagles, Patrick Willis said Sunday.

Willis didn't use those exact words. But when a reporter asked San Francisco's Pro Bowl linebacker to pinpoint the moment he knew he was no longer playing for a team that suffered eight straight non-winning seasons from 2003 through 2010, Willis chose the 49ers' 24-23 victory over the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 2, 2011.

Maybe you remember that day. The Birds held a 20-3 lead at halftime, led 23-3 in the third quarter. Would have been more if Ronnie Brown hadn't accidentally shoveled the ball to the 49ers while trying an ill-conceived option pass after being stopped at the goal line.

"There's no question in my mind that probably the turning point for me, in understanding what we have, is that anybody can pat you on the back and cut up with you when things are going good. It's when you go through those hard times and you're in the heat of battle, things aren't going so well, that you really find out a man's character," Willis said.

"Our first year together [under coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff], we were playing against the Eagles, and the Eagles jumped out on us big-time. I've been a part of a locker room, whether it's players or coaches, where there's guys pointing their fingers at one another, guys mad and saying this and that. But for some reason, in that locker room, the coaches came in, the players came in, and we were all just like, 'Don't worry about it. We got ourselves into this, we gotta get ourselves out of it.'