SAN FRANCISCO -- The 49ers have yet to announce their team awards. But when they do, it will come as no surprise when defensive lineman Justin Smith is named the winner of the Bill Walsh Award as the team's most valuable player.Coach Jim Harbaugh has made that declaration several times in recent weeks, emphasizing Smith's significant contributions to the 49ers defense.Smith was his usual impressive self on Saturday in the 49ers' 36-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints in an NFC divisional-round game.And the player who has done everything for the 49ers defense, did a little for the offense, too.In addition to playing all 80 defensive snaps in the game, Smith also entered as an extra blocker for three offensive snaps. Smith delivered a block on left defensive end Cameron Jordan to help running back Frank Gore pick up 5 yards and a first down on the second play of the game.But Smith was more than just a bit player on defense.He recorded a sack of quarterback Drew Brees and, at times, manhandled Saints Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who surrendered just three sacks in 16 regular-season games. Smith kept constant pressure on Brees with five quarterback hurries."That'd be a tall statement to say it was his most complete game," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "But, obviously, he came up big. He was ready. You could just sense it him all week. Particularly as the game got closer. This game meant a lot to him. He was going to bring it and he did."Smith was a first-team All-Pro selection at defensive tackle. He was a second-team All-Pro selection at defensive end. He was selected to his third consecutive Pro Bowl. And Smith is also a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.Smith did not make a Pro Bowl while with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he spent his first seven NFL seasons. He also never experienced a playoff victory, going 0-1 when the Bengals made the playoffs in 2005."In training camp this year, on the cover of our notebook was a picture of him and I had on there 0-1," Fangio said. "He had only played in one playoff game in his career and he was 0-1. Our main goal from the first day of training camp was to get him back in the playoffs and get that goose egg off the board. And we did that."
Justin Smith shows why he's 49ers MVP
January 15, 2012, 6:44 pm