The 49ers' offense revolves around its running game, defense and special teams. Smith had only 445 pass attempts this season, 212 fewer than Brees. Yet to focus on his stats is to miss his cool under pressure. In 2011, Smith has come through in big moments. At Cincinnati, the Niners trailed 6--3 with nine minutes to go. Smith calmly completed 4 of 5 passes for 48 yards on a 10-play, 72-yard drive for the decisive score. The following week at Philadelphia the 49ers trailed 23--3 early in the third quarter. On consecutive possessions Smith went 3 of 3 for 78 yards and a touchdown and 3 of 3 for 62 and a score, and San Francisco won 24--23 with a late touchdown run by Gore. Two weeks later at Detroit, the Niners trailed 19--15 and faced a fourth-and-goal from the six with 1:56 to play. Smith took the snap, set his feet and fired a dart into the chest of tight end Delanie Walker as he was crossing the goal line. But in the seven years since San Francisco drafted him, no comeback was more momentous than the one Smith pulled off on Saturday.
As fans hooted and hollered and rocked the stadium after Smith's touchdown pass to Davis, his third TD throw of the day, Pam and Doug and a small group of family friends looked at one another through tear-filled eyes in a section behind the 49ers' bench. "It was very emotional," Pam would say that evening. "We were all going crazy, but in the back of our minds was everything Alex had been through over the years. All the talk that he can't carry the team or can't make the big plays. It's one thing to come back once in the final minutes against a team as good as the Saints and Drew Brees. But to do it twice? On that stage? With that type of pressure? There were truly tears of joy. The contrast with previous years was fresh in our minds."
When the family gathered after the game, another toast was in order—and moving on had new meaning. Smith and the 49ers were headed to the title game, the Super Bowl in their sights.