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San Francisco 49ers - New Orleans Saints Player to Watch: Alex Smith


San Francisco 49er quarterback Alex Smith has his team's playoff hopes resting squarely on his shoulders today. Many may think running back Frank Gore will be the player who wins or loses the game for a 49ers team that shocked the NFL world in 2011 with a 13-3 record? Yet, no one is going to win a game against a high powered Saints team, that seemingly scores at will, by running the ball. If the 49ers are to prevail today, Alex Smith will have to deliver at least a couple TDs in the Red Zone; something he has had trouble with all season long. His 40% completion rate inside the Red Zone is among the worst in the NFL, and the 49ers have 22 touchdowns in 54 Red Zone attempt - The third worst rate in the NFL.

If the 49ers are going to survive this playoff game, they can't rely on their defense to hold back Saints quarterback Dree Brees' passing attack. The 49ers rushing defense has been stellar this season, allowing only three rushing TDs all year. The problem for San Francisco will be to score TDs instead of relying on Kicker David Akers to deliver field goals. Alex Smith will have to pass to win this game. New Orleans has a history of stumbling in the playoff when it comes to road games. They've lost every time - 4 times in team history. If Alex Smith can't deliver, his best friend may be Candlestick Park, one of the worst stadiums for a visiting team - EVER! Is it any wonder the unofficial moto of "The Stick" is: Veni - Vidi - Vixi (I came - I saw - I survived).