Here we go! The San Francisco 49ers will host their first playoff game since 2002 and guess who we get to play? None other than the number one offense in the NFL; yes I am talking about the New Orleans Saints. It will be strength versus strength in this divisional playoff round matchup. The Niners possess one of the best defenses in the league. Throughout the season the Niners have been known for their ball hawking defense. They lead the NFL in turnover differential, fewest rushing yards allowed, and second in points allowed. But will that be enough against the Saints who are riding a nine game winning streak, lead by a red hot offense. The odds makers believe that it will not be enough. The Niners are the only home team this playoff weekend that is an underdog. At the moment the Saints are 3 ½ point favorites. Who cares!?!? The Niners have been underdogs before and they have excelled when faced against a difficult adversary. Here are some games the Niners were expected to lose, but would prove the doubters wrong.
Week 4 @ Philadelphia Eagles
Going into week 4, the Niners had a record of 2-1. It was still way too early for any critic of analyst to expect anything great from the Niners. The Eagles on the other hand were 1-2 but were expected to win the game easily, after all the Eagles were the self proclaimed dream team. Niners were given no chance to win the game.
The game started as bad as you can start a game. The Niners quickly found themselves down 3-23. But the coaching staff stuck to their offensive philosophy and QB Alex Smith stayed composed, having arguably his best game of the season. Alex would orchestrate a great comeback and the Niners would eventually take the lead 24-23. Alex was brilliant throwing close to 300 yards and 2 touchdowns. The game will end with a memorable defensive stop.
The Eagles began to drive down the field for a potential game winning field goal. The drive would come to an end when DE Justin Smith forced a fumble which the Niners recovered to assure the victory. The victory had many critics and analyst thinking twice about the Niners and showed that Alex Smith was capable of leading a comeback. Outstanding game!
Week 6 @ Detroit Lions
This was my favorite game of the season. The Niners came to the game with a 4-1 record, the Lions with a 5-0. Both teams were labeled as “surprise teams,” the matchup was so intriguing that it became a nationally televised game. Once again the media were predicting a Lions win due to their explosive offense and home dome advantage. It was assumed that the Niners could not win another road game against another tough opponent.
The Niners would start slow and found themselves with a 10-0 deficit. RB Frank Gore would start the rally with a big 40 plus yard run setting up the Niners first touchdown. From that point on the game was a back and forth battle. With time whining down in the fourth quarter, the Niners were down 15-19. They showed grit and drove the ball inside the Lions 10 yard line. The Niners would be faced with a fourth and goal situation. This would set up Alex Smith’s clutch moment of his career. He would hit TE Delanie Walker with a slant to give the Niners the lead and the win, making the Niners an elite team. Also Alex came up big once again in a pressured filled circumstance. From that point on the Niners would become a force to be reckoned with.
Week 15 versus Pittsburgh Steelers
The Niners were not underdogs heading into the game from a betting standpoint. Neither the less the Steelers were still one of the top team in the NFL. Many experts were conflicted in their picks. The game had many implications for both teams. A Niner win would keep them in the hunt for a second seed and a Steelers win meant possibly home field throughout the playoffs. The analyst were still given a slight edge to the Steelers to win the game.
The game displayed the Niners finest defensive performance of the season. The Steelers offense could not do anything against the defense. QB Ben Roethlisberger was pressured all game. The final result would be a dominating 20-3 victory over the defending AFC champions.
I personally welcome the fact of being underdogs versus the Saints. The Niners have relished the role when presented to them. I have watched many sports shows this week and so far many of the so called expects are leaning towards the Saints. It will feel good when the Niners pull off another victory that most do not expect. I know we can do it. GO NINERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Later this week I will post the critical circumstances and match ups to look for in the game.