Saints vs. 49ers: Frank Gore and Players Who'll Carry 49ers to NFC Championship

T.J. McaloonContributorJanuary 12, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Alex Smith #11 hands off to Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers against the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park on December 4, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers may not be getting any praise, or any respect in their upcoming NFC Divisional round game against the New Orleans Saints, they are a four point underdog at home. 

However, because of the 49ers rushing attack, and their dominating defense, they will pull off the upset at home and move onto the NFC Title game next week. 

 

Frank Gore

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 24:  Running back Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 24, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

When Gore has had a week off in between games, he has gone off on the opponent in the following week. Against Cleveland after the bye, he rushed for 137 yards with a touchdown.  

New Orleans, just like Cleveland, gave up an alarmingly high amount of yards per carry to opposing running backs this year. The Saints ranked 29th in the NFL, giving up on average five yards per carry. 

While the average per carry was bad enough, the Saints gave up 11 touchdowns to running backs. That placed them tied for 10th in the NFC, and 16th in the NFL.

With the week off, Gore will be able to rip off some big gains, which will allow the 49ers defense time to rest to keep the high-powered Saints offense off of the board. 

 

Patrick Willis

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Patrick Willis #52 of the San Francisco 49ers lines up against the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park on December 4, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Willis is playing in his first ever postseason game, and the defensive All-Pro will shine this weekend. 

On the year, Willis missed three games because of being injured, but still finished second on the 49ers in tackles (97). Despite missing three games, Willis had a career-high in forced fumbles (four), and was picked as a starter for the NFC in the Pro Bowl. 

In Willis' first ever playoff game, he will be a dominant force for the 49ers against the New Orleans Saints. He will finish the game with eight total tackles and a forced fumble, helping this 49ers team advance to the NFC Championship Game. 

 

Alex Smith

ST. LOUIS, MO - JANUARY 1:  Wide receiver Michael Crabtree #15 and quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrate Crabtree's touchdown in the first half of the game on January 1, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. The 4
Whitney Curtis/Getty Images

Smith has come under an enormous amount of scrutiny in his first six years in San Francisco. However, he has seen his career rejuvenated this year, as he his having his best stats of his career. 

This year, Smith has seen his best numbers when playing at home. He has an amazing 12 touchdowns to only three interceptions, a 62.7 completion percentage and has thrown for 1,620 yards. 

If Brees and the Saints put pressure on Smith and the 49ers by scoring points thus keeping the game close, Smith has proven this year that he can handle that pressure. In games where the 49ers are winning-or-losing by seven points or less, Smith has seven touchdowns to three interceptions, with 1,605 yards. 

Smith can handle the pressure of the Saints defense, and will guide this 49ers team to another victory, just like he did in the regular season. 

 

These three players will take the 49ers back to the NFC Championship game, and could very easily lead them back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994.