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It has been a magical ride this 2011 football campaign. After 9 years straight of rooting for a team that keep leaving you with the agony of defeat it truly makes you realize how wonderful these types of seasons can be. The 2011 San Francisco 49ers took every expectation, and over-critical analysis and said to hell with that, we can be as good as we want. It all started with a coach, a dream, a vision, which turned into a mind-set of an entire organization performing as one unit that has gotten this team back out of the shadows and into the spotlight of relevancy of today’s NFL.
If I had told you that the 49ers would win their division with a rookie head coach and an unproven veteran bust of a quarterback, you would have blown me off. If I would have said this team would win 13 games in the regular season, you would have laughed. If I would have told you this team would take down the Saints and be hosting the NFC Championship game, you would have walked away in total disbelief. Well believe it, there is no denying this team, not this year.
With how great this team has played this year, which last time I checked it mattered what you did this year not years prior, there are still doubters. Even after the Niners drove the length of the field for the win, twice, there were still people Monday morning saying how lucky they got because of all the turnovers. Lucky? Really, are you kidding me? Was there something lucky with the Whitner hit at the 2? Was there something lucky with the 2 interceptions Brees threw? Let me guess, Alex Smith got lucky on a pass to Vernon Davis down the sideline—you have a few to choose from, or the one to the endzone, it honestly sounds like so many people are shocked by what happened that they can’t even accept it. The Better Team Won. The better team is moving on. The better team still has a shot at a championship.
It has already started this week. It seems like everybody is expecting a 2007 rematch between the Giants and the Patriots in the Superbowl. How the Giants are the “Hot Team” as they come in winning their last 4. Guess what people, so have the Niners. The 49ers just took down a team that had won 9 straight in the Saints. The 49ers have already beaten the Giants this year, albeit in a close game. How hard is it to give them some respect?
Looking Back at the Saints Game
The 49ers came out firing on all cylinders. Last week I made 6 outlandish statements about the game. I said the 49ers would score on their first 3 possessions. They scored on 3 of their first 4 drives, the one they didn’t started at the own 2. The defense came out looking as they have all year, a hard-hitting unit that was flying over the place, forcing turnovers. This team is the only team that has showed up every week. That is a credit to Coach Harbaugh.
Like we have said on this sight many times, you can’t stop great players, but you can try and limit the damage. Yes Brees did throw for 462 yards, but it took him 63 attempts to get there. Brees didn’t have a great game. He threw 2 1st half interceptions that help put his team in a hole that he spent the rest of the game trying to dig out of. Don’t get me wrong, Brees was by no means great, but a lot of that can be contributed to the defense. Even when protection was great and Brees had all day to throw the secondary would have everyone covered. Justin Smith was a one man wrecking crew, he was everywhere, and at one point reached over the tackle blocking him to pull Brees to the ground.
The man that stood out the most though was Alex Smith. It’s a quarterback league, and with as great of a day Vernon Davis had, it took someone throwing it to him. For a guy that had every excuse to want to leave San Francisco, he made his 1st post-season start a memorable one for a franchise known for its hall of fame quarterbacks. The best quote after the game came from Doug Smith who asked his son Alex Smith “Do you get two 4th quarter comebacks for that”. Smith deserves this spotlight. He has taken all the heat since he was drafted and never fired back. He wanted to stay in San Francisco, he wanted to prove that he could do it, and even in this great year he’s hasn’t been a “look at me” or “told you so” kind of player. Whatever happens this weekend or here on out with Alex’s career, he deserves a little more breathing room.
Looking ahead to the Giants
The Giants are a high energy team that tends to play better a second time around. When we played them back in November, it was a 27-20 final where the Giants were in the red zone late and couldn’t convert. That game was back and forth as the 2 teams are very evenly matched. The Giants know they can play with us, which works to their advantage.
To beat the Giant we are going to have to protect Alex Smith. The Saints were able to sack Alex 4 times and created 2 fumbles, 1 which was lost. The Giants are deep on the defensive front, with Tuck, Canty, Pierre-Paul, and Umenyiora. If the offensive line can give Alex Smith time, there are holes in that secondary. WR Michael Crabtree could have a big day, IF he can hold on to the ball.
The Giants were able to stop Green Bay from running the football last week. Aaron Rodgers was the leading rusher last week against the Giants. RB Frank Gore will look to change that. Gore hasn’t been the same since midseason, where he rattled off 5 100 yard games in a row. The Giants last time shut him out (6 carries 0 yards). Gore came up with a big run last week for 42 yards, but if you take that out of the equation he averaged less than 4 yards per carry. He will need to comeup big if we are to get to the Superbowl.
The defense is a big reason we beat the Saints. On the other hand they are almost the reason we lost as well. After allowing just 14 points thru the first three quarters, the defense allowed 18 points in the 4th. Eli Manning is one of the best 4th quarter quarterbacks in the league as he set an NFL record this year with 15 touchdowns in the 4th quarter. With that said I don’t see the defense having another 4th quarter let-down. The 49ers were outmatched by the speed of Sproles and the size of Jimmy Graham. The Giants have talented receivers but they don’t possess the speed and size matchup nightmares players like the Saints had.
As for the Giants running game, they were ranked last during the regular season in rushing while the Niners defense was ranked #1. I don’t think anyone can run on us effectively. This game will come down to eliminating the big plays the Giants receivers make. Nicks, Cruz, and Manningham have proven they are big game guys and can take it to the house at any time.
My Pick 6’s
- It will be a close physical game
- Alex Smith will throw for more yards than what Aaron Rodgers did last week
- Frank Gore will find the endzone
- The defense will not allow more than a touchdown in the 4th
- Crabtree will bounce back and have over 75 yards with a score
- The 49ers will keep the run of a different team representing the NFC in the Superbowl going.
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