I’ll be honest. I was pulling for the 49ers to beat the Saints. All season I was trying to tell myself that they are a mediocre team and play in a mediocre division. But when they come out of the tunnel on Saturday, they were looking for respect. And they got it. Never in a million years did I think that the Saints would lose…again…as a road favorite. But it just goes to show you that a hungry fan base, hungry players, and a hungry coach, can make the biggest non-believers, believers.
I wrote on Friday that I didn’t have faith in Alex Smith to make any big plays and that the 49ers couldn’t score enough to win the game. Once again, I was proved wrong. On the final drive of the game with the 49ers down 32-29, Smith had ice water coursing through his veins. It was just incredible to watch him progressing through his reads. With every shuffle of his feet I was waiting for him to throw a completely ill-advised pass. But when I thought he was about to pull the trigger, he took one extra second and dumped it off to Frank Gore. He made the play a seasoned veteran would have made. He had plenty of time to get into field goal range and didn’t force anything. The Saints were giving him an automatic 8-15 yard completion over the middle every time he dropped back.
After the 2nd straight check down to Gore, Smith tried give the Ninersthe lead with deep pass down the right side to Brett Swain, but it was slightly under thrown, causing Swain to get all discombobulated and could only get his fingertips on the ball. With 2nd down coming from his own 33 and only 40 seconds left, Smith threw an absolutely perfect pass to TE Vernon Davis that Davis took 47 yards up the left seam and down the left sideline to the Saints 20.
With 30 seconds left, Smith was looking for the touchdown, but once again, he made the smart play and checked it to Gore for another 6 yds. After spiking the ball to stop the clock with 20 seconds, Smith fired a bullet into traffic and found Vernon Davis for the game winning touchdown.
It’s just a amazing to see guys like Vernon Davis, who have been with one franchise for so long, finally get a playoff win. Just look at the pure emotion this guy displays. There was no stupid touchdown dance, no trash talk, just pure emotion. The guy cried on his way to the sideline for god’s sake! I have gained a ton of respect for him too. Well done Vernon.
I’ve long been an Alex Smith hater, saying he’s a complete bust and that he’s set the 49ers back another 5 years. But Harbaugh has obviously gotten through to him. He’s finally learned how to make the smart play, which can obviously be seen with only 5 interceptions on the year.
Clearly, the Saints defense was not one of the top groups in the league. But next week will be a “giant” task. The Giants front 4 are playing really well right now, which could be seen in the way they were in Aaron Rodgers face all game, causing multiple turnovers. The 49ers have the offensive line to match the Giants pass rush, so it will be up to Smith to continue to make smart plays.