2012 NFL Playoffs : Is The San Francisco 49ers The Team to Beat In the NFC?

By Robert D. Cobb

SAN FRANCISCO, CA –There was “The Catch” in 1981 vs Dallas, “The Catch II” against the Green Bay Packers and now there is “The Grab” against the New Orleans Saints that can be added to San Francisco’s storied playoff history.

After San Francisco’s epic 36-32 win over the New Orleans Saints in an instant classic, one may have to wonder if the 49ers may soon provide Bay Area residents with their sixth San Francisco treat.

Thanks to timely throws by quarterback Alex Smith, a 180-yard, two touchdown performance by tight end in Vernon Davis and a suffocating defense led by Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis that held New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees in check, the 49ers—not the defending Super Bowl champion Packers, or the New York Giants may be the team to beat in the NFC.

While San Francisco does not have the explosive high-flying offense of either Green Bay or New York, what the Niners do have is—perhaps—the most dominating defense west of Baltimore.

The Niners would sack Brees three times and intercept him twice, and ground the Saints early 17-0, before putting the clamps late.

While the Niners would give up a score to Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, it was Alex Smith—not Drew Brees—who would make the big play.

In an eerily similar play that Hall-Of-Fame quarterback Steve Young threw to wide receiver Terrell Owens, Smith would find Davis on a 14-yard touchdown pass with nine seconds left.

Smith, who earned many votes—including mine—for 2011 NFL Comeback Player of The Year, showed flashes of why he was selected number one overall out of Utah by making timely and crisp throws downfield to Michael Crabtree and Davis late would finish with 299 yards and three touchdowns.

Smith would rush for a 28-yard touchdown to give the Niners a 29-24 lead, before New orleans would respond with Graham’s 66-yard touchdown reception.

San Francisco may not be flashy like New Orleans, Green Bay or New York, but on this day, they showed that thanks with a stout defense, game-changing tight end and a balanced offense that they may be the team that represents the NFC in Indianapolis in three weeks.

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