Losing makes you do many things among them becoming used to finishing a season under .500. With Sundays win over the Giants the 49ers extended their winning streak to seven games and have started the season 8-1 for the first team since 1997, and have erased the last decade of decline. Despite wins over quality teams and only one loss in their record this season the 49ers continued to have doubters. The win over the Giants who were entered the game 6-2, showed the 49ers defense and offense can step up when needed and contributed to the win while silencing the detractors.
The people who don’t believe in the 49ers point to Alex Smith and him untested in the clutch. Somehow the three game-winning drives this season engineered by Smith was not enough to convince the naysayers however Sundays play against the Giants is all the evidence you need to show Smith has arrived in the NFL.
Early in the game it was clear there was something wrong with running back Frank Gore. Gore’s six carries resulted in zero yards and he did not play in the second half. Gore is reported to have a knee injury to which the seriousness is not known. The 49ers early in the game had to go to the passing game and Alex Smith. This has been the 49ers detractors’ main problem they point to with Smith, he is unreliable. The 49ers quarterback finished 19-of-30 passing for 242 yards, one touchdown and one interception; he showed he will come up big when called upon throughout the game.
The 49ers defense set up the last touchdown by RB Kendall Hunter with an interception. The TD run by Hunter put the 49ers up by 14-points with 12 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. The 49ers defense came up big all game with two interceptions by CB Carlos Rogers. The defense did give up 311 passing yards and two touchdowns but limited the Giants running game to 93-yards. The defense came up big on third and fourth downs late in the fourth quarter. The great play by the defense culminated with Justin Smith’s bat down of Eli Manning’s pass in the final seconds to seal the win. The 49ers showed against the Giants why it has one of the best and most physical defenses in the NFL.
With Alex Smith showing he can carry the team when the offenses best weapon, Gore, is unproductive and missing in the second half because of a knee injury, the 49ers have their franchise quarterback. Smith has finally arrived with the win over the NFC East leading Giants. Smith showed poise and the smarts of a number one draft pick in the win. He looked confident on every passing play and knew when to throw and when to run. Smith’s one INT was the fault of Ted Ginn Jr. and not the quarterback. If and when the 49ers need to rely on Smith, they know they can with the way he engineered scoring drives that set up four field goals and two touchdowns.
Speaking of those four field goals, kicker David Akers showed once again this week why he is the best kicker and the best free agent acquisition in the NFL. The 49ers have relied on Akers all season with confidence and showed it in the game against the Giants. The onside kick in the second quarter showed the 49ers were looking to catch the Giants off guard. When you have a great kicker like Akers the decision to go for the onside kick is easier. The 49ers probably practiced the play all week and Harbaugh pulled it out at the right moment. It led to a field goal but put the 49ers up 12-6.
Jim Harbaugh also arrived in this game and established himself as one of the top coaches in the NFL in his rookie season as a head coach. Harbaugh came up with a deliberate plan to pass early and often against the Giants to show his faith in Alex Smith and the passing offense. Harbaugh had Smith making big plays all game that will not came up in the stat line but contributed to the win.
The win against the Giants who were fresh off a road win over the Patriots is a loud statement for the 49ers. The win showed Alex Smith is a good quarterback. The win showed Jim Harbaugh has a great philosophy to win in the NFL and will be the coach of the year in his rookie season. The win showed why the 49er s defense is so fearsome and physical. The win showed special team’s coordinator Brady Seely is the best at what he does. Most imporantley the win showed, above all else, the 49ers are a legitimate challenger to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, and are the second best team not only in the NFC, but the NFL.