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Last Monday night before a nationally televised audience the fearsome Pittsburgh Steelers with veteran Super Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger succumbed to the relentless 2011 San Francisco 49er defense with a total of four turnovers and three sacks, which sent notice to the NFL of our intentions. NFL analysts and critics alike questioned the ability of the 49ers to advance based on our struggles producing from the red zone.
To be honest we all were concerned with the ineptness of our offense in producing touchdowns when they are in the red zone of their many opponents, this game was a revolutionary one to signal change in that spectrum of mounting depression. 49ers kicker David Akers was almost always put on auto pilot to come out and kick a field goal as are only accomplishment for penetrating the red zone.
In fact he has done it to such an extent he surpassed Jerry Rice's 138 total points scored back in 1987. The absolute reliance we've had on Akers to come through in close pivotal games is well documented and noted on this season. Playing so many games close to the vest as Jim Harbaugh is noted for and dealing with an offense that continues to try and find its own identity and rhythm has forced us to be co-dependent on David Akers as our leading scorer.
In this game our offense delivered when it needed to the most with two successful drives that culminated with sensational touchdowns in Vernon Davis and Frank Gore contributing. Respect was instantly achieved within this national spotlight that burnt out twice with Candlestick Park blackouts and questions surrounding its electrical grid all around it. The game was delayed by almost a half hour as these blackouts interrupted the flow of the game, but it was the 499ers in the end that responded with confidence.
Alex Smith the self-proclaimed, "game manager," won a vote of confidence again from head coach Jim Harbaugh who noted that Alex is worthy of being voted into this years Pro Bowl. Skeptics point to Alex as a quarterback that does just enough to win the game by not being asked to take too many risks. His passing yardage and completion ratios have also been debated as being too low for him to be in consideration of being a Pro Bowl worthy candidate.
Yet Jim went on to say that Alex Smith is the San Francisco 49ers, "long-term answer at quarterback for the foreseeable future." Thus his endorsement of Smith as our future further cements his place on this roster for many more years to come. The San Francisco 49ers have celebrated with Smith as their quarterback victories in 11 of 14 games, while at the same time Alex has thrown just five interceptions and lost only two fumbles as the NFC West Champions in the NFL.
Most important to note as well when the San Francisco 49ers offensive line executes well so does Alex Smith as he never was sacked in this game against a well known ferocious pass rush the Pittsburgh Steelers are trademarked for. Although he had lowly statistics on paper with completing 18-out-of-31 passes for 187 total yards, Alex carefully secured the football and executed the right amount of passes to yet again achieve total victory over our opponent.
ESPN analyst Jon Gruden gave tremendous credit due to our prolific defense that plays with great physicality and tenacity that is all about smashing their opponent's right in the face. Gruden went on to note that this team is very capable of entering the Super Bowl based on what he saw in this contest and more. In deed the defense literally suffocated the very life out of this elite offense directed and engineered by the Big Ben Roethlisberger machine.
This Monday Night beauty witnessed four costly turnovers committed by the Pittsburgh Steelers with a fumble recovery made by defensive superstar Justin Smith, rookie Aldon Smith securing 2.5 sacks on Big Ben and three interceptions executed by Carlos Rodgers, Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown. Upon further review the coveted Pittsburgh rushing attack was held to no touchdowns and 84 total yards on the entire game.
The redemption of winning such a nationally televised perceived playoff game and finding a solution to our miseries suffered a week more ago at the Arizona Cardinals was indications of intense coaching and players wanting to honestly make adjustments to showcase truly what they are capable of doing. 49er die-hard fans couldn't be any more proud then what they witnessed in this game as everything was a definite positive in how we prepared and executed this game.
I am now convinced as others are that we can only be connected as Jim Harbaugh has noted exclusively with simply winning the game. Individual statistics are what they are in the end. The most intriguing one that counts at the end of anyone's day is victory secured. Nothing else really matters. This game is the one we have served notice on to the league that we really matter. Our prayers have been answered and will make all the difference as long as we believe. Listening to our fans drown out the terrible towels in the stands was also something the coaches and players honestly appreciate. God Bless our 49ers.
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.