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.