Inside Candlestick Park in San Francisco, we saw a game that may be the future forecasting of a playoff scenario within the National Football Conference as we successfully defeated the New York Giants 27-20 in an epic showdown for conference superiority. The talk of the sports analysts and broadcasters was how we would fare against an elite quarterback such as Eli Manning and a high octane scoring offense that has had early season success thus far into the season.
By all standards, we again proved that we can hang with just about anyone in this league and lifted the stigma off our backs that we weren't sufficient enough to face and beat an elite team like the New York Giants that was just coming off a big victory over the elite New England Patriots.
In fact, we extended our seven game winning streak, which we have not been a part of since 1997, and we extended the longest streak in the NFL for our defense in not allowing a 100-yard rusher in 31 total straight games. We also have a first year head coach that joins two others in George Seifert and Steve Mariucci from 1989 and 1997 that has started the season with an (8-1) record.
I predict that this game was the turning point on this season in a psychological sense because we were successful in so many phases of the game, minus the running game which we have relied heavily upon and in Frank Gore who was relegated due to previous injury to six carries for zero yards. This game was won in large part due to Alex's managing of the game as many call it and defensive lineman Justin Smith making a pivotal play in the final moments to stop a New York Giant offensive drive to tie the score dead in its tracks with his big paw.
Alex Smith was, in my opinion, his most accurate yet this season as he connected with eight different receivers in arranging ball placement that totaled 242 total yards, including a 31-yard long bomb and scoring touchdown to Vernon Davis as his highlight moment. His lone interception was a deflected pass that was not at all his fault in trying to secure positive yardage.
Being one of Alex Smith's harshest critics over the years, I must recognize that him having a more experienced and secure offensive line has meant the world of difference in his continued positive progression in becoming a "great game manager and limiting the possibilities for mistakes," in every sense of the word. 49er center Jonathan Goodwin, a free agent we signed away from the New Orleans Saints, has been the main factor in causing a positive transition for the others to mesh with some known continuity.
The improved performance of this offensive line from left to right in Mike Iupati to Anthony Davis has allowed both Alex Smith and Frank Gore to turn fantasy into consistent reality from one game to the next. The only negative if we were to talk about one would be our conversion percentage on third downs in that we again only converted 3-out-of-11 in this game.
Alex Smith used his vast array of aerial weapons to move the chains ahead and did so with accurate precision in that he hit so many moving targets and put the ball in talented individuals that proved deadly to the New York Giant defense. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman called a perfect game and found a way for us to be successful minus the services of a Frank Gore.
49er running back Kendall Hunter was called upon and he delivered with six carries for 40-total yards including a 17-yard romp in which he carried the ball into the end zone for a touchdown to boot. The crowd at Candlestick must also be recognized for assisting in this game being near record capacity and making noise like we haven't ever heard of in many a year as they played a factor on the New York Giants final drive in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Hats off again to 49er cornerback Carlos Rodgers who has his first two-interception game of his seven-year career and is playing at a record setting pace this year that warrants an extension of his contract with us. The second interception helped set-up the game winning touchdown. Big recognition goes to Justin Smith who swatted down an Eli Manning pass on fourth down and from our own 10-yard line to finally secure this long anticipated victory.
Dynamic was again the two linebackers and their counterparts in the middle of the field with Patrick Willis on one side and NaVorro Bowman whom combined had 25 tackles with three for losses. Nothing can be more thrilling than the exemplary execution of our kicker in David Akers who split the uprights with four field goals and making him five for five on 50-yards or more outside the goal posts. Let's not forget his surprise onside kick that was caught by none other than special teams extraordinaire Delanie Walker.
All phases of our arsenal were used at their finest in delivering the knockout blow to a well-coached enemy and helped secure a new mindset within the league as different heads have turned to finally recognize us as a legitimate contender in this league for a change. As Jim Harbaugh has said on many an occasion, "riding under the radar and being a known underdog are perfect antidotes to our continued success as we know it today."
Finally we can now rest assured that Alex Smith, when called upon, can deliver without the constant services of a Frank Gore. His ability to recognize defenses and communicate more efficiently has been known guidelines to his visual success thus far this season. Making use of his feet to put us in positive yardage has lifted this team to new heights in believing in him for his fearlessness and tenacity to put us on solid footing as he did with six carries for 27 total yards.
Coaching was magnificent in this game from all standpoints. The San Francisco 49ers come prepared each and every week with a fresh set of new ideas and adjustments to old ones. I am very much at peace looking ahead at the fourth quarter of this season with our coaches and our game plan.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.