Saturday, January 14, 2012
49ers Defeat Saints: Alex Smith Silences His Critics.......for this week
All week long, critics have said that Alex Smith could not keep up with Drew Brees on the scoreboard. If the San Francisco 49ers were going to defeat the New Orleans Saints, they would have to do it with their defense and keep Brees off the field. The 49ers proved otherwise.
Although Brees and the Saints were on the field for 31:20, turnovers would be a killer for them. The 49ers, who were home, were excited to be in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and their 17-0 run to open the game displayed it. But the team with one of the most exciting offenses would not go away. The Saints would score two touchdowns just before halftime. In the third quarter, the 49ers just could not find the endzone. Even with a big 20 yard pass to tight end Vernon Davis, they would only get a field goal in the third quarter.
As the fourth quarter approached, the fans in San Francisco wondered if Alex Smith could take charge and lead them into the NFC Championship, or would Drew Brees have any tricks up his sleeve. In the beginning of the quarter, the 49ers just could not score a touchdown. However, when Brees got the ball, he immediately made the defense pay with a touchdown. Brees found Darren Sproles for a 44 yard touchdown with 4:02 left on the clock. The 49ers down by one, had two options, control the clock and kick the winning field goal, or score a touchdown. However, with a quarterback like Brees, there is no way any team would want to score quickly and leave him any time on the clock. With two passes and two short runs, the 49ers scored their first touchdown in the second half. Going up by five, they attempted a two point conversion but failed. Being up 29-24, there was still 2:11 left on the clock.
With just three plays, Drew Brees did it again. Scoring another touchdown. Brees found Jimmy Graham for 66 yards and silenced the audience of San Francisco. The 49ers, who were playing great defense in the first and third quarter all of a sudden could not stop the Saints. They would have to rely on Alex Smith yet again to come up with another spectacular play. Again, it was the connection of Alex Smith to Vernon Davis that would send the 49ers right into the NFC Championship. Davis was on the reception of a 47 yard pass that put them in field goal range to tie the game. But with the bigger picture in their mind, it was a 14 yard touchdown reception with :09 left that would win the game.
Alex Smith has had a career year, setting career highs in touchdowns, quarterback rating, and most importantly wins. In his playoff debut, Smith threw for 299 yards with three touchdown passes. Vernon Davis, his favorite target, also had a career day in his playoff debut with 7 receptions, 180 yards with a pair of touchdowns. The 49ers await the winner of the Packers/Giants matchup. The way they are playing on defense, despite that fourth quarter, they can beat either team. If the Giants win, the 49ers will be at home, but if the Packers win, they will be forced to go to Green Bay.