It was a great week in the Bay Area for 49ers fans as the Niners finally got some long awaited respect again. Not only are they returning to the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, they're also sending 8 players to Hawaii for the Pro-Bowl in February.
Now, before we get ahead of ourselves and start talking potential 49er opponents for round two of the playoffs, I have to say, I was less than impressed with Sunday's win vs. the Rams. Not only was St. Louis starting a backup QB, but they're one of the worst teams in football, and they nearly came back and took that #2 seed away from San Francisco. It wasn't the offense's fault either, as they cruised through the Rams' defense, with Smith completing nearly 70% of his passes and throwing for a score and 220 yards. The team also rushed for over 100 yards again, although they did rest Gore for much of the game. The 49ers rush defense, which hadn't allowed a rushing score heading into week 16, allowed two more TD's via the ground, one coming against the first unit too. Granted, most of the Rams comeback was in the 4th quarter when most all 49ers starters were sitting, it was a tad unsettling to see them come that close to losing out on the crucial first round bye. But besides the 4th quarter meltdown, things went well in the first half, as Michael Crabtree continued his assault on NFL corners with 2 more TD's and 9 catches for 92 yards. The dude just catches everything you throw in his direction, as evidence of that TD reception from kicker David Akers. The dude is finally coming into his own, and has become a clear cut #1 wideout (starting to be a leader on field as well!).
Crabtree, unfortunately though, won't be joining 8 of his other teammates in Honolulu next month for the NFL version of the All-Star game, as the AFC and NFC square off in the ever meaningless Pro-Bowl. The 49ers and the Patriots each are sending 8 players, which leads all NFL teams. For the 49ers, both kicker and punter David Akers and Andy Lee will get a much deserved trip as those two were arguably a couple of the most valuable 49ers this season. Joining them and starting on the NFC's defense will be Patrick Willis and Carlos Rogers (pictured to right saving a big TD), while Joe Staley will start at RT for the offense. The other three players who earned the honor are Frank Gore, Justin Smith and Dashon Goldson. All who had huge years for 49ers playoff run. Also selected as alternates (which means some of these guys will probably make it) are linebackers NaVorro Bowman (how he wasn't a first-balloter is blowing a lot of minds around the Bay Area) and Ahmad Brooks as well as Vernon Davis, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Ray McDonald, Ted Ginn Jr., Blake Costanzo and Bruce Miller. My guess is Bowman and Davis end up making the team.
Going for the Raiders will be kicker Sebastian Janikowski, punter Shane Lechler and DT Richard Seymour.