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Frank Gore is having an excellent season
You've heard it before, "defense wins championships." If this is indeed true, the San Francisco 49ers have a legitimate chance to get to the Super Bowl.
In terms of points allowed, the 49ers have the leading defense in the NFL. The 49ers have allowed an average of only 14.5 points per game and have a league leading plus-17 turnover margin.
The 49ers' defense is particularly tough against the run and have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in the last 32 games. The 49ers also have not allowed a rushing touchdown this year.
Led by Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Justin Smith, the 49ers' defense is physical, opportunistic and very difficult to score on. These three are all having Pro Bowl-caliber seasons.
Alex Smith has emerged into a solid NFL quarterback that can do more than just "manage the game." Head coach Jim Harbaugh has implemented a system that fits Smith perfectly and has instilled a sense of confidence in his quarterback.
For the season, Smith has thrown 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions. That ball security has been extremely important in the 49ers' success this season.
Frank Gore leads the 49ers' ground attack and is having an excellent year. Gore has 870 yards in 189 carries, a 4.6 yards-per-carry average.
The 49ers' wide receivers have not been all that impressive this year. Josh Morgan is out for the season due to injury and Braylon Edwards had knee surgery early this year and is a shadow of his former self.
Michael Crabtree started the season slowly, but has been coming on of late. He had his best game of the year this past Sunday against the Cardinals, with 7 catches for 120 yards.
The 49ers have two excellent tight ends in Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. Davis is an excellent blocker and both are fine receivers. They create matchup problems for any defense, as they're both too big for most defensive backs, but too fast for a linebacker.
Davis and Walker have combined for 58 receptions, 644 yards and eight touchdowns. Harbaugh has done an excellent job creating ways to get both tight ends involved and devising ways for them both to be productive.
The 49ers also have excellent special teams. Kicker David Akers and punter Andy Lee are two of the best in the league. Return man Ted Ginn Jr. has also provided some exciting moments.
The coverage teams have been excellent and the overall play of the 49ers' special teams has given them field position advantages in almost every game.
The coaching staff led by Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has done a tremendous job. The 49ers are always well prepared, don't beat themselves and believe in what the coaches are telling them.
When a team has that positive belief, great things can happen. The 49ers definitely have that belief.