Alex Smith looks to earn his place alongside 49er greats.
SAN FRANCISCO - Nobody is ever going to confuse Alex Smith with Joe Montana or Steve Young. But with a repeat of last week's performance that either 49er legend would have been pleased with, Smith could write himself into 49ers folklore.
For much of his career, Smith has failed to live up to his elite draft status. Known more for his turnovers than his touchdowns throughout his career, Smith has been considered a first-round "bust" by many fans.
Therefore, when Drew Brees hit Jimmy Graham for the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter last weekend, it was unsurprising that a stink of uncertainty permeated throughout Candlestick Park.
The defense that had carried the team for the majority of the season had just dropped the ball, and the 49ers' hopes rest in the hands of a quarterback that many would have been fine with cutting at the beginning of the season.
But Smith finally gave the sports world and 49er fans a glimpse of why San Francisco drafted him first overall in the 2005 draft. Furthermore, in a single drive, he gave the long-frustrated 49er faithful a chance to relive two of the most famous plays in their team's history.
Mirroring the heroics of Joe Montana against the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, Smith drove the offense down the field in the final minutes with the poise and precision that earned Montana a hall of fame jacket.
Then, just like Montana hitting Dwight Clark for the game winning score against the Cowboys, Smith connected with his own tight end to secure a spot in Sunday's NFC title game with the Giants.
Does Smith's epic performance against the Saints mean he's finally turned the corner and launched his career as a top-flight quarterback? Or will he revert to his prior erratic self next season? Whatever the answer, if the former number-one pick can help his team win the next two games, he will earn a place in the annals of 49er history alongside two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play professional football period.