Frustration Ends: San Francisco 49ers Advance to Super Bowl XLVII

Vincent FrankCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20:  Colin Kaepernick #7 and Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers answer questions in the post game news conference after the 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Years of pent up anger and frustration came to an abrupt end on Sunday afternoon when the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons to make their first trip to the Super Bowl in 18 years. 

For the younger fans, it was the first time that they were able to actually sit back and see their team win the NFC Championship. 

For older fans, the win represented something that was commonplace in San Francisco throughout the 1980's and 1990's. The 49ers were once again on top of the football world after so many lean years. 

For some players, Sunday's win pulled a 200-pound monkey off their back. After all, they had come to a franchise with one of the most heralded histories in the entire National Football League only to see it go to complete crap during their time there. 

These tenured players such as Frank Gore, Issac Sopoaga, Dashon Goldson and even Alex Smith were on some of the worst teams that this franchise has ever put on the football field. They went through a myriad of inept front offices and coaching staff en-route to what had to be a career-defining win against Atlanta Sunday night. 

It is important to remember that Gore and Smith joined the San Francisco in 2005, following a 2-14 season that saw the 49ers win both of their games in overtime against the Arizona Cardinals. In reality, they were inches from going 0-16. 

Their first season on San Francisco was an unmitigated disaster. The likes of Johnny Morton, Arnaz Battle and Kevan Barlow led an offense that ranked 30th in the NFL at under 15 points per outing. Defensively, San Francisco gave up nearly 27 points per game en-route to losing each game by nearly two touchdowns. 

Yes, it was bad. 

While Smith wasn't able to actually get San Francisco to the Super Bowl as a starter after it faltered last January against the New York Giants, he has to feel some sort of vindication knowing that he helped jump-start this turnaround. 

Meanwhile, Gore was front and center as it related to the action in the NFC Championship Game. He scored the game-winning touchdown and was an important figure in San Francisco, rebounding from a slow start on the offensive side of the ball. As you can tell in his post-game presser, Gore couldn't have been more excited about pulling that proverbial monkey off his back. 

Of course the primary focus as it relates to San Francisco's success is the emergence of second-year superstar Colin Kaepernick, who played two near flawless games in order to get the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

That being said, this is just the beginning for the young quarterback and an equally young core that includes: Michael Crabtree, Joe Staley, Anthony Boone, Anthony Davis, NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith, among others. 

The 49ers going to be Super Bowl contenders for the foreseeable future. A loss against Atlanta on Sunday wouldn't have tarnished their legacies by The Bay. Instead, many would have come to the conclusion that the best is yet to come. 

The same cannot be said for some of the longest-tenured players that I mentioned above. Smith will not be returning as a backup in San Francisco next season. Instead, he will find himself a starting quarterback job elsewhere, either after being traded or released. Gore probably only has a year or two of stellar football left in those legs. Meanwhile, both Sopoaga and Goldson are set to become free agents, which indicates they could easily more on following the Super Bowl. 

It might have been their last chance to prove that they belong with some of the great teams in the history of this great franchise. 

Fireworks were going off by my house as the clock hit triple zero on Sunday. The entire Bay Area was up in arms for another San Francisco team after the Giants won the World Series back in October. What used to be the centerpiece around the professional sports world regained that status for a brief moment in time this past weekend. 

We now have two full weeks to look ahead to San Francisco trying to win its sixth Super Bowl in as many appearances. 

The story lines are aplenty. 

Two brothers will meet one another in the Super Bowl for the first time. San Francisco will look to match the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Lombardi Trophies (six). Meanwhile, one of the greatest defensive players to ever suit up, Ray Lewis, will be playing one final game on the grandest stages that the world of sports has to offer. 

While fans in San Francisco bask in the glory of what promises to be an amazing two weeks in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, it is important to take a step back. 

Take a step back knowing full well that some of the players on this team are going to be playing their final game in New Orleans early next month. Take a step back and come to the realization that if it wasn't for them, you wouldn't be looking at the 49ers making a return trip to the biggest game for the first time in 18 years. 

Yes, even thank Alex Smith for his service to this team, what he has done over the last few seasons and how he handled being benched after leading the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game last season. 

After all, these players defined the motto "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." Some of the players about to make their swan song in New Orleans represent this motto to a T.

For that, you should be thankful.  


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