Maiocco 1-on-1 with Alex Smith: Reliving the Saints playoff game
Alex Smith completed 24 of 42 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns, and also ran for a 28-yard touchdown. (AP)
Just think: for the first 56 minutes on Saturday, the 49ers managed 237 yards of total offense and two touchdowns.
In the final four minutes -- tense, critical minutes -- the Alex Smith-led offense rolled up 170 yards and two touchdowns to enable the 49ers to go marching into the NFC Championship Game with a 36-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
There's so much to rehash from this game, but let's focus on the two scoring plays.
1) Third-and-8, New Orleans 28, 2:18 remaining: The play is called "QB-9" or "QB-Whack." The whack was courtesy of 5-foot-10, 186-pound receiver Kyle Williams, who took out 6-3, 282-pound defensive end Will Smith with a crack-back block. (More on Williams' block in his recap.)
Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams guessed wrong. He stacked the 49ers' right side. He brought five pass-rushers off that side. Alex Smith ran away from the blitz.
Kyle Williams' block was key. Alex Smith then beat defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, tied up initially by center Jonathan Goodwin, to the left sideline. Michael Crabtree worked cornerback Tracy Porter inside and blocked him from Smith. Left tackle Joe Staley made the most athletic play, as he got in front and chopped down safety Isa Abdul-Quddus at the 19-yard line.
"Joe told us in the locker room, 'Wait 'til you see my block on film," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "It was a tremendous block, the stride, the beauty of the arm action, the leg cycle, the speed." And it led to Smith racing untouched for a 28-yard touchdown, giving the 49ers a short-lived 29-24 lead.
2) Third-and-4, New Orleans 14, 0:14 remaining: Quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst installed this play specifically for this purpose -- to expose a Saints tendency. Tight end Vernon Davis lined up in the left slot and his entire goal was to remain in front of safety Roman Harper, lined up 2 yards deep in the end zone. Second tight end Justin Peelle lined up just outside of Davis and ran a 5-yard hitch. His action distracted linebacker Scott Shanle just enough to create the opening through which Smith drilled in his pass to Davis. The pass was perfect and Davis held on despite Harper's hit, which came a split-second too late.
Pass protection was not an issue, as Smith took a three-step drop after receiving the shotgun snap. The Saints rushed only three men on this play. The 14-yard Smith-to-Davis touchdown provided the winning points with nine seconds remaining.
Not sure what else can be written about Alex Smith's performance. He got the 49ers rolling with TD passes of 49 yards to Vernon Davis, beating the blitz, and four yards to Michael Crabtree on a third-down play.
[MAIOCCO: Alex Smith -- A good 49er]
But in the second and third quarters, the 49ers offense fell flat. Smith completed just 10 of 20 passes for 82 yards. He was sacked three times, losing a fumble on one of them. But the late-fourth quarter was astounding. Smith finished the game with 299 yards passing -- the most he has ever thrown in a 49ers victory in his career. He had three touchdowns throwing and one running. He led the 49ers down the field twice in the final four minutes to cap a game that will be talked about for generations.