SANTA CLARA -- Jim Harbaugh was either in an existential mood or just a plain bad one Monday, you make the call.

For most of 18 minutes with the media, the 49ers coach was solemn, stone-faced, agitated and terse to the point of near-silent defiance.

The NFL podium equivalent of dead air, practically, from a coach leading his team to its third consecutive playoff run, starting Sunday in Green Bay.

"I don't know that there's a different way to speak about the ballgame," Harbaugh said of starting the postseason on the road, with the potential for several more road games ahead, because of the 49ers' getting the NFC's fifth seed. "The approach is that we're going to be playing in Lambeau Field next Sunday.

"What time they play, what day it was, very little control over that. You control how you play."

That was one of Harbaugh's more expository moments, which is his right and, occasionally, his habit.

If you wanted a big, blustery bugle call before the wild-card round matchup -- and the fourth meeting with Green Bay in two seasons -- well, you weren't getting it Monday.

And since Harbaugh controls the mood of this franchise, when he's dour and tense, it ripples through the nervous system of the entire 49ers operation.

Is there any real reason for Harbaugh to be intentionally edgy now? Perhaps.

Maybe he's worried that the 49ers' six-game winning streak might push his players toward a looser mindset than the coaching staff wants.

Maybe Harbaugh knows that the potential road ahead demands a ferocious mindset, with this game at Green Bay, possibly the next one in Carolina and of course an ultimate expected showdown in Seattle.

It won't be easy, and the 49ers don't get any free pass just because they're probably the hottest team in the league heading into the postseason.

"In this league I think everybody bases that on your last four quarters of play," Harbaugh said.

"It's very much how you're playing at the moment, and that'll be judged this week."

Or maybe Harbaugh was just feeling ornery Monday and most of the questions didn't tickle his fancy -- that happens, too, and it's not his fault.

But a statistic: Of the 48 questions or follow-ups asked Monday, Harbaugh delivered answers of six words or fewer 18 times.

That's some edginess there.

For instance, this question: Is there a best way to prepare for the likelihood of very cold weather on Sunday in Wisconsin?

"I don't know," Harbaugh said, "if there is a way. Is there a way to prepare for the cold weather?"

But will it be a factor? The 49ers have played zero cold-weather playoff games in the Harbaugh era and have played no subfreezing games during the regular season, either.

"I think we'll play when we play, where we play, who we play," Harbaugh said.

"What the weather's like won't control how we play -- we'll play hard, keep our bodies warm by playing hard."

Harbaugh did brighten up when asked about rookie receiver Quinton Patton's big plays in Sunday's tight victory over Arizona and emphasized Patton's will to compete.

That has been Harbaugh's theme the last few weeks -- his favorite thing about this team is the collective will and the competitive fire it displays day in and day out.

"I like our team very much in the regard that they're a very competitive group," Harbaugh said.

"They're fiery competitors that every single week they bring that competitiveness and that desire to win and the desire to prepare to win to put themselves in the best position possible.

"And then on Sundays they fight, they're prepared to do it for the entire game. And what more can you ask as a coach? What more can you ask of your team than those things?"

Fire. Competitiveness. Preparation. That's Harbaugh's kind of team -- whether the 49ers are playing on the road or at home, as a top seed or a low one, all he wants is a team that fights.

They have a coach who fights, sometimes you can see it even when he's at a podium, wrapping himself in layers of existential defiance. Or maybe he was just mad. Either way, it works.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.

Sunday's game
49ers (12-4) at Green Bay (8-7-1), 1:40 p.m. FOX

Inside
Harbaugh says Perrish Cox's re-signing unrelated to cornerback Carlos Rogers' injury. PAGE 5