Sunday's week four match-up between the 49ers and Eagles proved to be a more evenly matched game than the ESPN analysts predicted (seeing as how Boomer, Ditka, Cris, TJ, Keyshawn and Jerry all picked PHI). Perhaps a major reason San Francisco was able to return home with a win is because they played better as a team than Philadelphia.
And while the Eagles may have all the talent money can buy, you can't buy championships --- just ask the Miami Heat who learned the hard way. The team players who really had a hand in Sunday's win were the three Smith's: Alex Smith, Justin Smith and Aldon Smith.
Alex Smith, QB:
The underdog quarterback has continued to prove the naysayers wrong in 2011 by leading the 49ers to a 3-1 start by doing the little things well. A lot of Smith's past troubles with indecisiveness, bad decision-making and an inability to get the offense going have been eradicated by Jim Harbaugh. The rookie NFL head coach has proven himself to be the valuable commodity teams sought out only months ago.
And while Smith may have a long way to go before he changes the perception about him, he is off to a fantastic start. Against the Eagles, who many blindly chose to be in this years Super Bowl, Smith went 21 for 33, for 291 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He seems to understand the game differently; taking what the defense gives him and trusting his playmakers while playing mistake-free.
Smith and his teammates were looking at a 20-3 deficit at halftime but like Harbaugh said, "they never flinched." We saw the staples of the west coast offense this game, with Smith connecting with 8 different players in his 21 completions. And if one play defines what the 49ers are trying to accomplish with this offensive system, it would be the slant route by Josh Morgan that went for a touchdown.
Justin Smith, DE:
I don't feel enough good things can be said about the veteran Justin Smith; win or lose, this guy is a performer. He is arguably one of the hardest working players in football and a leader for the 49ers on and off the field. Sunday against the Eagles, Smith put the Niners on his back and said, 'I'm going to finish this game.'
The 32-year-old defensive end chased down the young explosive wide out, Jeremy Maclin, and executed an immaculate forced fumble to close the game for San Francisco. Described by coach Harbaugh as "just a hustle play," Smith made what was in my eyes, the play of the game.
One too many times, San Francisco has bounced back against a good team late in the game, only to have their confidence shattered in a heartbreaking last minute loss. It's happened against the New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings and twice to the Atlanta Falcons in recent years. This play made by Smith marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.
Aldon Smith, LB:
The 2011 first round pick came alive against Philadelphia in primarily a pass rushing role; effective nonetheless. The rookie got to elusive superstar quarterback Michael Vick during the game, recording 1.5 sacks against one of the hardest men to bring down in professional football. This bodes well for next week because I believe Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is another difficult passer to get on the ground.
The way Smith played, I believe if it were a less gifted pocket passer behind that same Eagles offensive line, Smith could've had 5 sacks. He seems to have an array of pass rushing techniques that he executes so naturally and fluidly. The coaching staff seemed to have found a way to get him involved, and thus improving our chances of victory week-to-week.
Another great thing about the performances from these three men was their positions. To have great performances from different key positions on the field makes this team a real threat. All I can say is, if defensive back Reggie Smith can start making some more plays, opposing teams are going to be in real trouble.
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