Justin Smith was one of the four people speaking in the 49ers media tent this afternoon, and he had one particularly interesting comment about the emotions heading into Sunday's NFC Championship Game. He spoke about how after last year's divisional round win over the Saints, the team was incredibly excited about the win. This year, after beating the Packers, they didn't feel the same way.
Obviously a last second will leave a team fired up, but I read this more as just general feelings and not just the immediate aftermath of the game. This follows comments by Donte Whitner in an article this morning discussing how the 49ers have a better handle on the magnitude of the moment going into Sunday's game.
"We didn't really understand the magnitude of the moment," Whitner said Tuesday of that 20-17, overtime exit. "A championship game like this, each and every play, it's going to be a roller-coaster ride out there. We understand that now."
The 49ers have seen limited roster turnover since last year's conference title game. Among their starters, the lineup changes include QB Colin Kaepernick, RG Alex Boone, WR Randy Moss and OLB Aldon Smith (sort of). The only pertinent new reserve this year is RB LaMichael James. While Kaepernick at QB is obviously a huge deal, for the most part, this veteran team is back for another go at a Super Bowl. It's not easy to just dismiss Kaepernick's inexperience, but he was on the team for the game, so it wouldn't be completely new for him.
Patrick Willis spoke to the media before Justin Smith, and he spoke from a more general perspective, talking about how these opportunities do not come around often, and the window for Super Bowls is slim.
An NFL game is 60 minutes, but the first quarter is what I am most looking forward to for assessing where this team is at heading into the game. Obviously when the clock hits zero, we'll know what's what, but those first couple drives will be interesting. Does the team come out flat for whatever reason? Do they come out with fire and take an early lead?
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