In prime time, Mike Nolan's Niners exhibited a collective heart that showed how much of a team they truly are.

All night long, the defenses of the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals were the stars. Each side made play after play as the offenses struggled all night. When it was all said and done, we saw Alex Smith grow up and perform in the clutch despite all the mistakes that were made. A 20-17 comeback victory over the Cardinals on Monday Night Football was no doubt what the city of San Francisco wanted after years of inept football from the once proud franchise.

All night long, the 49er offense was tentative and highly conservative. Jim Hostler's play calling was unimaginative for most of the night until the final game winning drive when the play book was finally opened up.

Despite not generating much offense for most of the game, the 49er defense really shined in those familiar throwback crimson and gold uniforms from 1981.

The cornerback duo of Nate Clements and Walt Harris completely shut down Cardinal receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and rookie middle linebacker Patrick Willis was in on almost every play.

The Niner front seven contained Edgerrin James and generated a decent pass rush whenever Matt Leinart went back to pass. However, I expected more from Tully Banta-Cain since he was touted to be the best pass rusher on the team.

A young and fast defense was the hallmark of the 1981 Super Bowl team that was in its third year under Bill Walsh and it appears that in Nolan's third year, the defense will be the unit to carry the 49ers to the next level. Clutch quarterback play from the two different eras could potentially be another similarity.

No way can we compare Smith to a young Joe Montana, but leading his team 86 yards for the game winning touchdown is a good way to continue the legacy of the 49er quarterback.

Smith stayed cool under pressure and was able to finally get the ball down field in those final minutes of the game. He exhibited poise and confidence with each successful play that got the Niners the positive yardage they lacked to earn all night.. The game should have been over when Smith launched a deep pass to Darrell Jackson that slipped right through the middle of his arms. Arnaz Battle's almost costly fumble right at the endzone really tested the mettle of the Niners.

Despite the dropped touchdown pass and the fumble at the one year line, the Niners persevered and scored the winning touchdown on an end around by Battle.

That kind of toughness in the clutch is a testament of the leadership at the top. Mike Nolan has brought a sense of accountability and an emphasis of teamwork. Bill Walsh always preached that his team is only an extension of each other.

I saw that within Nolan's Niners.