Call it the remnants of five previous seasons that have ended in disappointment, but Vernon Davis — San Francisco’s premier tight end of six years — has never quite been able to stomach the simple idea of watching the NFL playoffs.
“I was so upset that we didn’t make it,” he said, of all of his previous seasons. “I just couldn’t watch it.”
But Saturday, Davis, along with many of his teammates, did watch the playoffs, for it can’t hurt to get a look at a possible playoff opponent.
That opponent, as many had predicted before wild-card weekend, will be Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, who are fresh off a 45-28 walloping of the Detroit Lions. And during the final three weeks of the regular season, walloping teams is what the offensive Saints have done. In each of their final three regular-season wins, New Orleans bested the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers by at least 22 points or more.
To put it simply, New Orleans is what many in the sports world can call “hot.” And 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has an opinion on hot teams.
“So much of the playoffs is the hot team and the team that’s continuing to get better near the end of the season,” Smith said. “And that’s really our focus ... to continue to get better.”
In taking full advantage of their first-round bye before hosting the Saints on Saturday at Candlestick Park, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has been tuning up his team by scrimmaging his first-team offense and defense against one another.
“That’s been helping [the offense], and its been helping us at the same time,” safety Dashon Goldson said. “Iron sharpens iron. We just gotta keep doing that going into the postseason.”
But despite the high turnover ratio and the uncanny success against the opponents rush attack, the lack of playoff experience has prompted some to call San Francisco a young team.
“I don’t feel this is a young team,” Smith said. “I feel like this is a team that is mature enough, that understands the opportunity we have in front of us.”
Though Goldson disagrees, he maintains a positive outlook.
“We’re hungry,” he said. “We’re a young football team. The energy around here is high, and we’re not ready to go home.”
As for a seven-year veteran who made it to the playoffs in 2005 with the Washington Redskins, Carlos Rogers has some advice for his fellow young teammates before the weekend showdown.
“Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself just because it’s the playoffs,” he said. “You can’t go into the game nervous. Don’t go into the game overexcited just because you made the playoffs. Once that ball kicks off, it’s about trying to win. And that’s our main goal.”