After an enduring nine-year drought, the San Francisco 49ers were able to clinch the NFC West Championship with only three-quarters of the 2011 season under their belt.
But they didn’t just clinch, they did it in tremendous fashion.
The 49ers dominated the St. Louis Rams and secured a playoff berth with a shutout victory; embarrassing the Rams with their 26-0 shellacking.
Alex Smith had the best game of his career (and the best game of any 49ers QB since Steve Young’s 145.3 on 11/28/94) with his 142.3 QB rating. He also threw the deep ball very well, which is something he has been criticized for up to this point.
His performance included a 52-yard touchdown bomb to Michael Crabtree and a 56-yard TD to Kyle Williams. He also laid a long floater right through the fingers of the usually sure-handed Vernon Davis. An overall amazing performance by Smith.
Frank Gore became the 49ers' all-time leading rusher (as expected). His 71-yard rushing performance was far better than the 22 he needed to seal the deal. He was awarded the game ball and coach Jim Harbaugh was quoted on Monday saying, "There should be a statue of Frank. Maybe with the new stadium, there'll be something somewhere—a life-size statue of him, in one of those cool positions he gets in, you know?"
After his workhorse career is done, Frank Gore will definitely deserve it.
The 49ers defense continues to improve and dominate the NFL in almost every important category. The game on Sunday was just an explanation point on what has been an unparalleled season and statement by this 49er defense. This shutout victory is the fruit of a 12-week, fierce labor.
With the clock winding down on Sunday, coach Jim Harbaugh was treated to a well-deserved Gatorade shower. Harbaugh’s efforts in his rookie season for the 49ers have all but locked him in as the NFL’s “Coach of the Year.”
This season has been a great surprise to almost everyone outside of the 49ers locker room. The 49ers have a lot to be proud of, and the fans have so much to be excited about.
And even though there is still a lot more football to be played this year, this season has already been a success.
Congratulations to the 2011 NFC West Champion 49ers!
This article was originally published in the Benicia Herald.