The San Francisco 49ers enlightened the rest of the nation to what those in the San Francisco Bay Area have know since Week 6: The 49ers are a legitimate threat to win the NFC.
Against the torrid New York Giants, San Francisco displayed all of the signs you would expect to see from a championship caliber team. The current team possesses an iron will to overcome obstacles that fans aren't used to seeing from their 49ers of the last decade.
The 49ers aren't shy on talent either, and that can be even more important than will. In Week 10, the 49ers players provided a deluge of exceptional individual performances.
When Frank Gore left the game, fans weren't too concerned about whether Kendall Hunter could pick up the slack. They have seen him do it before.
49ers fans weren't disappointed. After Carlos Rogers' second interception of the day, Hunter capped off the drive with a 17-yard touchdown scamper in which he wasn't even touched by a single Giants defender.
It turned out the 49ers would need that extra score, too. Eli Manning and the Giants made it interesting at the end, and Hunter's score proved to be the difference in the game.
David Akers may very well be on his way to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl next year. He was brilliant, kicking four field goals in the tricky environment of the 'Stick.
Additionally, Akers was able to put the ball deep into the end zone most of the time he kicked off, forcing Eli Manning and the Giants to overcome challenging field position.
I know, I know, Vernon Davis caught the touchdown pass from Alex to put the team up to stay. But Delanie Walker was more valuable to the 49ers against the Giants.
Walker caught six passes for 69 yards. He didn't catch a touchdown. He did, however, catch four passes that resulted in key first downs. He was Alex Smith's go-to guy in this game.
Walker and Davis will continue to provide excellent targets as the season goes forward. I look forward to the fun.
Thank you Bob Obob for helping me to remember that Walker was also the player to recover the onside kick in the second quarter to spur the team to a 9-6 halftime lead.
Carlos Rogers continues to make general manager Trent Baalke look like a genius for resisting the urge to throw money at Asomugha this past offseason.
Against Eli Manning and the Giants, Rogers was brilliant. He intercepted two of Manning's passes and kept Victor Cruz's impact to a minimum. Cruz still managed to catch six passes for 84 yards, but he didn't catch a touchdown pass.
There can be no doubt in anybody's mind that Carlos Rogers is a top three cornerback in the NFL after the way he has played this season. Thank goodness he's on our side!
Willis continued his dominant play against the Giants, recording 11 tackles and a sack.
His leadership role has grown this season, and he has begun leading the team in a Ray Lewis like pre-game huddle. It's hard to imagine that Willis might actually be getting more confident, but his increased vocal leadership demonstrates just that.
How many times did you see the Giants run through a hole and worry that they might break off a huge gain, only to see Willis dart in at the last second and stop the runner cold in his tracks?
When Willis gets his hands on someone, he doesn't move forward.
In a statement game, head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman decided it was time to make a statement of their own.
The game plan out of the gate was to let Alex Smith dictate the flow of the offense through his arm. He accomplished this plan with precision and grace, as the West Coast offense began to unfold in all its splendor on the hallowed grounds of Candlestick Park.
An ignorant fan might point to the stat sheet and complain that he still managed to throw an interception, but you all know that if it weren't for Ted Ginn Jr.'s facemask getting in the way of a perfect throw, Smith wouldn't have that blemish on his record.
The New York Giants have an elite pass rush and are one of the most feared defenses in the NFL. Alex Smith and the 49ers took on the challenge with a shrug and took the Giants' best shots. Ultimately, the better team won.
Alex Smith was exceptional, and he'll keep getting better.