Winning quarterbacks are glorified in San Francisco like few other places.
Alex Smith now finally has a taste of what that feels like.
After sticking it out through years of defeat and criticism with the 49ers, Smith's career-defining moment finally arrived Saturday afternoon at Candlestick Park against the New Orleans Saints, and boy was he ready for it.
Smith not once, but twice rallied San Francisco to go-ahead touchdowns in the final 2:11, first running in a 28-yard bootleg score, and then saving the 49ers one last time with a 14-yard game-winning bullet to tight end Vernon Davis at the goal line, just nine seconds shy of the final gun.
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As rich and storied as San Francisco's playoff legacy is, this fantastic finish won't take a backseat to any in 49er postseason history. It was a battle San Fran won, lost, and won yet again, as the teams combined to score four touchdowns (two each) in the final 4:02, trading punches like exhausted heavyweight fighters who were hanging on, just trying to make the final bell.
Not many people gave Smith and company a chance to prevail in this one, with the Saints coming in as the hottest and most productive team in football. But the former #1 overall pick out of Utah turned in the turned in the game of his life, outdueling Drew Brees, finishing 24 of 42 for 299 yards, with 3 touchdowns, his go-ahead late-game rushing TD, and a 103.2 total passer rating.
Derided at times this season for being a "game manager'' type of QB, Smith stepped up and proved he can carry his team to victory, even when the pressure is the greatest.
Thanks to him, the 49ers are once again a force to be reckoned with in the NFL playoffs, and they get to play another big-stage game next week. Either at home against the New York Giants, or on the road versus the Green Bay Packers.
Regardless, San Francisco is back to making history in the month of January, and that is a site long overdue in the Bay Area.