There was a point in the third quarter of Saturday’s epic shoot-out between the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers that Jim Harbaugh and his team seemed to be satisfied with just crawling into the NFC Championship. It was fitting, seeing as San Francisco has had ugly, gut-checking wins throughout the season where they had just played well enough to win. But they have also had victories where the offense surprised and ultimately succeeded this season. The comeback win against the Philadelphia Eagles comes to mind, and so does the dizzying victory over the favored Saints on Saturday afternoon at

This is not Rex Grossman of the 2007 Bears, where the team went to the Super Bowl despite its quarterback. The 49ers are heading to the NFC Championship because of their quarterback. Smith’s 85-yard touchdown drive with about 1:30 left to play is by far the biggest stage he has ever been on and might ever be on. He showed he is more than just a game-manager with that final minute drive and zero interceptions, and it is thanks to the trust Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Vic Fangio have in him that led him to that success.