Gore, Smith, Davis erase bitter memories

January 15, 2012, 4:00 am
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Quarterback Alex Smith and running back Frank Gore arrived in 2005. The next year, the 49ers selected tight end Vernon Davis.The 49ers' unfathomable 36-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Saturday at Candlestick Park was understandably emotional. And those emotions did not just being for Davis after his game-winning touchdown catch and cry-on-the-shoulder moment with coach Jim Harbaugh.Davis spoke to his teammates at halftime to let them know that this moment could not get away."It was very emotional," Davis said. "One shot. That was the message. We have only one shot and if we don't take advantage of it, we go home. There was a lot of fire within me at that moment."The 49ers defense has carried the team all season. But the 49ers defense allowed a couple of big-play touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Twice, the 49ers looked to be in dire situations."I think we got too excited," Saints running back Darren Sproles said. "We didn't think they could score like that, but they did. They proved us all wrong."Alex Smith.Vernon Davis.Frank Gore.The three players who came into the league within a year of each other experience plenty of frustration together. On Saturday, they experienced elation.Smith completed 24 of 42 passes for 299 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was his most passing yards in a 49ers victory. He also ran 28 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 2:11 remaining.Davis caught seven passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, including the 14-yard game-winner with :09 remaining.Gore carried just 13 times for 89 yards. Gore opened the game-winning drive with receptions of 7 and 11 yards. It was a drive that began with 1:32 remaining on the clock. The Saints had taken a 32-29 lead on Drew Brees' 66 yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham.It seemed like the 49ers had let their one shot get away."We had some time left, so we gathered up and said we had time to do it," Gore said. "Alex was calm. He kept telling us, 'We're going to get it.'"All that frustration over the years was erased with an expertly executed final drive. Smith to Davis made the big plays, including the 14-yard touchdown for the final points.The 49ers will be moving on to the NFC championship game next week against the winner of Sunday's game matching the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants.Alex Smith cashed in with a 2.5 million bonus for taking the 49ers this far. But this victory meant a lot more than any dollar signs can capture. Yes, it is clear that Smith has a future with the 49ers."Along the way, there has been a lot of stress, doubt and criticism, especially for Alex," Davis said. "He has had a lot of criticism in his life. But when I look at that kid, I look at him as a warrior."Said Gore, "We've been down for a long time, knowing we had a great team. It never happened. It's a blessing. I'm happy. It's starting to happen for us, and we deserve it."