14 January 2012

The Performance From Alex Smith We've Been Waiting For

The San Francisco 49ers have surprised all season en route to a bye in the NFC Playoffs but there were still questions about whether Alex Smith could lead this team in crunchtime. Sure he had been efficient all season and was a very good game manager for a team with an awesome defense and a strong running game but could he put the team on his back and win? Today against the high-powered attack of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, he did just that as he led his club to a thrilling 36-32 victory to advance to the NFC Championship Game. And for one of the first times in his career, he proved himself worthy of the top overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft.
There were four defining plays in the fourth quarter for Smith and the 49ers that were critical for their victory today. And they all were great plays made by Smith as well as his teammates.
The first was a perfectly placed toss to tight end Vernon Davis for a 37 yard gain down the far sideline with a little more than three minutes to go. Smith threw the pass exactly how he had to throw it and Davis, who had an awesome game of his own, made the play in catching it to set the 49ers up in prime position for a go ahead score at the Saints' 30 yard line. After some shenanigans including a penalty against San Francisco for too many men on the field sandwiched by questionable timeouts for both teams, Smith capped the drive on a perfectly executed bootleg scramble, on a truly brilliant playcall by Harbaugh against an all-out blitz, in which Smith, who is no fence post and can move, followed his blockers for a 28 yard touchdown run, the longest in team postseason history. That gave San Francisco a 29-24 lead after a failed two-point conversion.
Then the onus was again on Smith after the Saints swiftly moved down the field in a quick but efficient drive led by Brees and capped by a brilliant 66-yard catch and run by tight end Jimmy Graham, giving the Saints 32-29 lead. And Smith was able to deliver. After losing a nice chunk of time moving the ball only a bit down the field, Smith connected with Davis yet again. This time it was a 47-yard catch and run in which Smith threw into tight coverage and Davis made a great catch and was able to break away to the Saints' twenty yard-line. And the was the game-winner. After a short completion to Frank Gore, Smith capped the driver and the game with a tight spiral to Davis at the goalline, and Davis withstood a big hit from Roman Harper to hold on for the victory.
For Smith, he threw for almost 300 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was able to deliver when Harbaugh dialed up more passes than most folks expected. But most importantly did Smith show that he can win games and that he can carry the club on his shoulders. Whether or not he defeats the Packers or Giants next week to advance to the Super Bowl, Smith has finally had that performance in which the team can hang their head high for drafting him in the first place.

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