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49ers veterans get first crack at playoff win

Patrick Willis AP

49ers defensive end Justin Smith has played eleven years in the NFL, none better than his 2011 campaign.

Smith was a first-team All Pro and merited some consideration for Defensive Player of the Year. He hasn’t missed a start since 2002.

One thing he hasn’t done in his NFL career: Win a playoff game. He has that in common with a lot of his teammates.

At least Smith has played in one playoff game, when he was a member of the Bengals. Most of his 49ers teammates don’t even have that experience.

Frank Gore has been one of the very best all around running backs in the NFL since he entered the league in 2005. He’s the 49ers all-time leading rusher, but this is his first postseason.

Patrick Willis has made the Pro Bowl in all five of his seasons and has been a first team All Pro four times. He could be headed to the Hall of Fame at this rate. This is his first time to shine on football’s biggest stage.

From Alex Smith to Donte Whitner to Vernon Davis to Ray McDonald to Joe Staley, the 49ers are more of a veteran team than you think. They are mostly home grown. And they are hungry for their first taste of playoff success.

When the 49ers face the Saints Saturday, it feels like they aren’t just fighting for a playoff win. They are trying to show their old school brand of football can still work in the NFL.

They are trying to validate an incredible season that absolutely no one saw coming.

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41 Responses to “49ers veterans get first crack at playoff win”
  1. stevemo says: Jan 13, 2012 1:42 PM

    I remember when Justin Smith was largely considered a bust because he had never put up double-digit sack numbers people come to expect from “good” defensive ends.

    I’d take a guy like Justin Smith over a “premier” end like Dwight Freeney any Sunday.

  2. sbxxix says: Jan 13, 2012 1:43 PM

    Our players are deeply rooted to the organization and will do anything to pull off a win. One thing for sure, regardless of the outcome, all 49er fans will be proud on Sat. As a 49er fan I know I’ll be seeing a special performance out of my team on Sat. I can’t wait. It’s been too long. Happy to see my team back. Hope they can pull it off

  3. burnitinthestreet says: Jan 13, 2012 1:44 PM

    TO was right about Jeff Garcia…

  4. 40zntallcanz says: Jan 13, 2012 1:46 PM

    they deserve this win. 49ers will win the super bowl

  5. waxthat says: Jan 13, 2012 1:52 PM

    “They are trying to validate an incredible season that absolutely no one saw coming.”

    I get what your saying. Although, many of us 9er faithful and other knowledgable fans have known the 49ers had the talent for success. A few extra pieces this year, Harbaugh and his staff has pushed us over the hump. If the hawks and cardinals could make the SB in recent years..we knew our time was coming. Not saying we’re going to make it to Indy, but we sure hope so.

    Go Niners, keep making us proud!

    They gon’ hit from start to finish..I aint talkin’ beats and lyrics..I’m talkin’ Bowman and Willis!

  6. andyreidisfat says: Jan 13, 2012 2:01 PM

    I think it’s awful the saints are the favorite. This niner defense is no joke. They picked up the right players for what they do and may even got the steal of draft in aldon smith, the best 3-4 outside linebacker drafted in a long time. I think he’s a much better player than clay Mathews ( clay is still great dont get ur panties in a bunch pack fans)

    I think San Fran can slow he game down and I also think they can get pressure. On Brees from the outside.

    24-21 niners

  7. nolahxc says: Jan 13, 2012 2:09 PM

    It’s amazing how things have flipped around. In the late 80′s it was the 49ers with the potent, Montana led offense. On the other side it was the Saints “Dome Patrol” linebacker led defense.

    Tomorrow’s game is like the San Francisco ’87 Saints vs. the New Orleans ’87 49ers.

    This is the type of game that will get a lot of extra attention from those old enough to remember the old NFC West rivalry between the Saints and 49ers. The Saints have the Joe Montana style QB who is having one of the best QB seasons ever. Then you have the 49ers with a GREAT LBer corp featuring Bowman and Willis, and now the defense features Aldon Smith along with the vet Smith. The unstoppable force vs. the immovable object!!!!!!!! Love it!

    I hope the game is a great as I’ve hyped myself to believe!!!

  8. stadanko says: Jan 13, 2012 2:10 PM

    The best offense in the NFL might have something to say about that.

  9. Tadd says: Jan 13, 2012 2:11 PM

    I am a Packers fan but I know the 49ers have been building a damn good ball club for years, they just lacked a decent leader on the sideline. When they hired the current coach I knew they had big things in store.

    I was wrong in that I predicted this would be a rougher year because of the lockout, but I still picked them to win that dismal division, but I pegged their record at 9-10 wins.

    They are a good team. It will be fun to relive the 90′s rivalry Niners vs Pack, if not this year in the years to come.

  10. leet793 says: Jan 13, 2012 2:19 PM

    Should have a Takeo Spikes footnote.

  11. colinblowherd says: Jan 13, 2012 2:25 PM

    And it will be one and done for them. The only way the Saints don’t win on Saturday is if they miss their flight to SFO.

    Final score:

    Saints TOO MUCH

    49ers NOT ENOUGH

  12. Johnny Chingas says: Jan 13, 2012 2:29 PM

    This 49ers team has been dismissed, disrespected and given no credit all season…They have been the underdog in almost every game they played and when they’ve won it was always said to be due to some sort of fluke not their actual play on the field.

    This is a moment of reckoning for the 49ers! This is going to be the moment where they stand up and make everyone recognize how special this team actually is. You got to beat the best to be the best…I believe in this team for the first time in a looong time…They can beat any team any time anywhere!

    Go shock the football world Niners!

  13. waxthat says: Jan 13, 2012 2:31 PM

    @Tadd

    Classy post. Nice to see fans of opposing teams showing respect to others. Hope to see you guys in the NFC championship. Hopefully its a good game, either way.

  14. woodyg says: Jan 13, 2012 2:34 PM

    That red-zone offense will have to do more than just kick FGs or the 49′ers will be “one & done” …..

  15. cletusvandam says: Jan 13, 2012 2:35 PM

    Its nice to see Justin Smith get some recognition. He’s not a “numbers” guy but there isn’t a better all around player at his position in the NFL

  16. bullwnkl985 says: Jan 13, 2012 2:37 PM

    “andyreidisfat says:
    Jan 13, 2012 2:01 PM

    I think San Fran can slow he game down and I also think they can get pressure. On Brees from the outside.”

    Generally, pressuring Brees from the outside is largely ineffective. He is one of the best QB’s I’ve ever seen with his pocket awareness and ability to slide, step up in the pocket and make defenders miss. Where Brees is more vulnerable is when defenses are able to get pressure up the gut, preventing him from stepping up and blocking his sight lines. This is the reason N.O. has placed more emphasis on the guard duo of Evans/Nicks and less on finding stud tackles.

  17. Tadd says: Jan 13, 2012 2:40 PM

    andyreidisfat says

    ” I think he’s a much better player than clay Mathews”

    Maybe when he plays every down we can compare him to Matthews. He is a good played but he comes in on Passing downs, lets see him play every down and see how he plays coverage, and the run. That is why Smith won’t be Defensive Rookie of the Year, because Von Miller plays every down.

    Defense is a whole lot more than Sacks.

    He is a good player and will mature nicely, lets see next year when he is a starter and plays every down, then compare him to Clay.

  18. ninerswilldominatelikebefore says: Jan 13, 2012 2:41 PM

    GO NINERS!! NINER FAITHFUL ARE PUMPED FOR THIS GAME!! CAN’T WAIT! ITS BEEN TOO LONG BUT WERE BACK, WE’RE GOING TO SHOW THE COUNTRY TOMMOROW THAT OUR NINERS ARE BACK. OUR TOUGH D WILL STOP THE FINESSE SAINT TEAM!

  19. ilikesteveyounggirls says: Jan 13, 2012 2:52 PM

    Win or lose it should be a good game. I’m glad that real fans around the NFL recognize that the 49ers have a solid team and deserve to be mentioned among the elite. It will be fun to watch the old rivalries renewed now that we’re relevant again.

    As for Saints fans, it wasn’t long ago you were donning paper bags, let’s remember that. In the last decade of abysmal teams fielded by the Niners, you would have been hard pressed to find one fan doing that in Candlestick. Just sayin.

    Don’t forget to remove the tags from your new Brees jersey.

  20. starderup says: Jan 13, 2012 2:58 PM

    Go NINERS!!!!
    Stomp the bagheads!

  21. ratedgap says: Jan 13, 2012 3:05 PM

    ilikesteveyounggirls says:
    Jan 13, 2012 2:52 PM
    As for Saints fans, it wasn’t long ago you were donning paper bags, let’s remember that. In the last decade of abysmal teams fielded by the Niners, you would have been hard pressed to find one fan doing that in Candlestick. Just sayin.

    ————————————————

    Actually, it was that long ago, unless some how you think the early 80s was recent. As far as 9ers fans not doing it, guess what, you had won before. Those Saints fans, including myself athough I was still young then, never had the winning to be patient through the losing. Let’s not attempt to make one fan base better or “above” the other, cause even though those fans wore bags, they did buy tickets to sit in the seats and wear them didn’t they?

  22. theroc5156 says: Jan 13, 2012 3:24 PM

    “I remember when Justin Smith was largely considered a bust because he had never put up double-digit sack numbers people come to expect from “good” defensive ends.

    I’d take a guy like Justin Smith over a “premier” end like Dwight Freeney any Sunday”

    ________________________________

    Justin Smith WAS a bust. Had only one move. Had a great motor and all that other junk, but he was not worth the pick. Bengals defense actually IMPROVED when he left.

    That being said, I hope he does well in the playoffs.

  23. hmpennypacker says: Jan 13, 2012 3:25 PM

    As a long standing niners fan I’m really looking forward to this! Think we stand a good chance of getting the W. Everyone’s pretty much healthy and the saints are so good outside. Key will be to stop Graham and Sproles. With Pat and NaVarro patrolling the middle we should be ok. Offensively the line has to protect Smith. It’s he big chance to show he can succeed in this league. Having said that ball control will win the game. Keeping Brees off the field and Gore moving the chains is a must!

  24. thinwhiteduke76 says: Jan 13, 2012 3:26 PM

    Not a fan of the 49ers, but when you sit down and look at their roster, there is a lot of talent there. There was talent there last year and the year before when they failed both seasons to win 10 games. Harbaugh has done a fine job with this team to turn them around so quickly, hats off to them. Remember last year, this team had high expectations and overall failed what everyone wanted them to be, but they had some really close games they could have pulled out and maybe finished 9-7. This year, it’s been very different. I have a mass amount of respect for Harbaugh for turning this team around.

  25. nineroutsider says: Jan 13, 2012 3:33 PM

    @nolahxc

    Great post, I was thinking about that Dome Patrol defense the other day with Jackson, Mills, and Swelling and all of those guys. 9ers fans won’t want to hear this, but funny how the tide has turned. The 9ers are the team coming out of a deep sleep establishing themselves as a great team just this year and the Saints are the proven, well established/respected football team with the star QB and prolific offense.

    I wasn’t a big fan of the Dome Patrol and Bobby Hebert and how tough they played those great 9ers teams in New Orleans, but I respected them. Now the 9ers are the underdog, chip-on-the-shoulder team with a great defense trying to overcome a great team at home and they have a great shot.

    Going to be a tough game, hard fought game that will make fans of both teams proud. Good luck and go 9ers!

  26. cags777 says: Jan 13, 2012 3:40 PM

    Make it happen, 49ers. It’s time to put Sean Payton’s ego in check and silence Saints fans chanting “who dat”.

  27. goodguyjohn says: Jan 13, 2012 3:44 PM

    The red zones are painted red. The tide is in, the gulls are flocking. The turf is heavy. Ghost’s of Super Bowl’s past are stirring.

    Candlestick Park in Mid January doesn’t let too many games get away from her.

    Niners dispose of the Saints with shocking ease

  28. trollhammer20 says: Jan 13, 2012 3:48 PM

    “Don’t forget to remove the tags from your new Brees jersey.”

    Don’t forget to wash all the dust off your Lott, Montana, or Rice jersey.

  29. nolahxc says: Jan 13, 2012 3:58 PM

    @nineroutsider

    Here’s to renewing old rivalries!! Who dat!

  30. Nevis says: Jan 13, 2012 4:05 PM

    woodyg says:
    Jan 13, 2012 2:34 PM
    That red-zone offense will have to do more than just kick FGs or the 49′ers will be “one & done” …..

    ———————

    Niners have scored 6 TDs in their last 9 RZ attempts. That bodes well that their RZ offense is making strides and may not come back to haunt them.

  31. Nevis says: Jan 13, 2012 4:11 PM

    Pressuring Brees from the outside is pointless. He’ll just slide or step up and make the throw.

    Justin Smith and Aldon Smith will run stunt after stunt that gets pressure up the middle in an effort to expose their rookie center.

    And why has no one mentioned that the 49ers center this year is Jonathan Goodwin….the starting C for the Saints last year.

    Think he knows a thing or two about Brees or the Saints’ signals?

    Don’t sleep on the 49ers. Even if they lose, they will be the toughest out the Saints have seen all year.

  32. trbowman says: Jan 13, 2012 4:12 PM

    9ers should be one of the prime candidates for Manning.

    They’d be scary good.

    What they’ve managed to do with an average QB in Alex Smith is amazing.

    But, as long as he’s the guy, they won’t be able to get over the hump.

  33. norcalmafia says: Jan 13, 2012 4:16 PM

    It is funny how there used to be about 500the Saints fans in the world now theres thousands..At least we have Jerseys to knock dust off of you guys just have paper bags with holes cut out!

  34. mdd913 says: Jan 13, 2012 4:22 PM

    Niners are gonna get abused and embarrassed. 42-13 Saints

  35. qtip9802 says: Jan 13, 2012 4:39 PM

    @ ninerswilldominatelikebefore

    saints are anything but a finesse team . . . they are 3rd in league in rushing and niners arent even in top 10

    how do you define finesse team? a team that averages more than 20 points a game

    or is it defined by how many points are given up – everybody knows the saints give up a bunch yards, but (nobody laugh) d is not as bad as yards show . . . when you are up by 20 you tend to give up yardage

    13th in scoring defense, and go back and forth between 1st and 2nd on getting off of field on 3rd down

    regardless they arent a finesse team, just like the niners of the 80′s and 90′s werent a finesse team

  36. phelbin says: Jan 13, 2012 4:40 PM

    The best defense in the NFC has been hearing all week that they have no shot against Drew Brees. And they’re even the underdog at home…the ultimate disrespect. They’ve been saying the right things when asked about it – “Brees is great, they’re a great team” – but you know that this defense is going to be amped for tomorrow’s game! The Saints haven’t faced a defense this good all year, and especially not one so determined to pound them into the field.

    It doesn’t matter that the Niners wouldn’t win in a shootout, because THIS WON’T BE A SHOOTOUT. SF will control the clock, play a field position game, and wear out the Saints’ weak defense.

    22-10 Niners

  37. mistercharitystripe34 says: Jan 13, 2012 4:40 PM

    This ‘Niners team has had solid talent for about 2-3 seasons, but never had leadership on the sidelines. They won games this year that they barely lost (against good teams) in previous seasons. As an outsider watching this, I can say with confidence that this 49er squad has the best defensive (and special teams) unit in the NFL. They create sacks, turnovers and most importantly, they are an excellent red-zone defense.

    Their offense is actually better than people think. Thanks to great field-position, they are very efficient and balanced driving down the field. People forget that Montana was a great “ball-control” QB in Walsh’s WCO. This was Alex Smith’s first season with a great coaching staff that has put Smith in a position to be successful. Players like Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis have been effective as well. This wont be the blowout people are expecting. It’s going to be a hard-fought game from both sides.

  38. jimboslice208 says: Jan 13, 2012 4:45 PM

    Very refreshing to read classy and intelligent posts. 24 hours to game time. Here’s hoping the first game of the weekend is the best game of the weekend.

    Go Niners!

  39. domehead says: Jan 13, 2012 8:53 PM

    This has the feel of our old NFC West rivalry with the Niners. Hopefully, we’ll play good enough to have a different outcome than it typically used to be.

  40. pigbladder says: Jan 13, 2012 9:28 PM

    “Patrick Willis has made the Pro Bowl in all five of his seasons and has been a first team All Pro four times. He could be headed to the Hall of Fame at this rate. This is his first time to shine on football’s biggest stage.”

    granted this nfl “stage” is bigger, this one isn’t the biggest, now is it. i think there are a few weeks, and a couple wins until the “biggest stage”

  41. forever8young says: Jan 14, 2012 3:02 AM

    trbowman says: Jan 13, 2012 4:12 PM

    9ers should be one of the prime candidates for Manning.

    They’d be scary good.

    What they’ve managed to do with an average QB in Alex Smith is amazing.

    But, as long as he’s the guy, they won’t be able to get over the hump.

    =================================

    Go off yourself.

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