The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 13-6 on Thursday Night Football by using an old-school formula of an outstanding ground game combined with an elite defense to smother the Seahawks.
With quarterback Alex Smith struggling to scare opposing defenses, offensively things have once again been left to running back Frank Gore. Luckily for the 49ers, he is clearly more than up to the task.
Another common trend is elite defenses now residing in San Francisco. This year the 49ers once again have a top unit that shuts down opposing offenses with ease thanks to a perfectly built roster. With head coach Jim Harbaugh and Co. orchestrating the plans, the elite members of the unit can shut down any offense in the NFL.
If this story is sounding familiar, it's because it is simply more of the same for the 49ers. Last season they rode an elite defense and Gore to the NFC Championship Game, and there's no reason to believe that cannot happen again in 2012.
Let's examine whether the 2012 49ers can once again ride Gore and the defense to the NFC Championship Game—or more.
Gore is still an elite running back and can completely carry the load if need be. With Alex Smith continuing to be a mediocre quarterback despite great weapons around him, Gore will be asked to put the offense on his shoulders in close games.
In 2011 this occurred perfectly as Gore rushed the ball 282 times for 1,211 yards and eight touchdowns on the way to the NFC Championship Game. This year, it looks to be more of the same from Gore as he has rushed 601 yards and four touchdowns.
Gore is the perfect complement to an elite defense. He eats the clock while continually moving the chains. Opposing defense are still stacking the box as a result of Smith's play, but Gore is once again the saving grace of the San Francisco offense.
The 49ers continue to be one of the best teams in the NFL thanks to an elite defensive unit led by defensive lineman Justin Smith.
Right now the defense gives up only 276 yards per game, good for the No. 1 ranking in the NFL in that category, along with only giving up 15 points per game.
Thanks to Smith and an outstanding pass-rusher in Aldon Smith, opposing passing attacks don't typically stand a chance. An elite pair of linebackers in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman allow the 49ers to shut down the run with ease as well.
The San Francisco defense has shut down prolific offenses such as the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, so it's a safe bet that the dominance will continue and allow the 49ers to make a repeat appearance in the NFC Championship Game.
Super Bowl Bound?
Last season the 49ers rode an elite defense and Gore to within one game of the Super Bowl. A repeat appearance in the NFC Championship Game is all but a lock in 2012 despite the NFC being a ridiculously strong conference this year.
The only competition for the 49ers this season in the NFC is the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants, a team that traveled to San Francisco in Week 6 this season and embarrassed the 49ers 26-3. It also happens to be the same team that defeated the 49ers in the NFC Championship last year.
San Francisco is riding a dying formula to the Super Bowl in 2012. In a league that has transitioned to a pass-first league, the 49ers are using an old-school formula on the way to a potential championship.