Who were 49ers' MVPs? One man's opinion


The postseason honors are rolling in, but the 49ers have yet to disclose any of their team awards for the 2011 season. The guess is that coach Jim Harbaugh does not consider this season concluded, so he doesn't want to start looking back on the team's accomplishments quite yet.
So here is one man's opinion of the team MVPs on the day the 49ers impatiently await the outcome of Saturday night's Detroit-New Orleans game.If the Saints win, the 49ers will play host to New Orleans in a divisional round game at Candlestick Park next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. If the Lions win, the 49ers will play the Sunday's winner of Atlanta and the New York Giants.Defensive MVP: Justin Smith became the first player to be voted first-team All-Pro at one position (defensive tackle) and second-team All-Pro at another position (defensive end) in the same phase of the game. He was second on the team in tackles and sacks (7.5). His play was a great benefit to rookie Aldon Smith, who led the team with 14 sacks. And he made the play of the year -- the chase-and-strip of Philadelphia speedster Jeremy Maclin to preserve a Week 4 win against the Eagles. Also, chalk up Justin Smith as the overwhelming choice for team MVP.
Honorable mention: Cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Dashon Goldson recorded six interceptions apiece; inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman led the team in tackles; Aldon Smith set a team rookie record with 14 sacks and gave the pass rush some much-needed spark; and Patrick Willis was typically outstanding when he was on the field. Offensive MVP: Looking back on what the 49ers' offense did better than any team in the league, and most of the credit goes to quarterback Alex Smith. Sure, he was 19th in the league in passing yards. But of the 33 qualifying quarterbacks, Smith led the league in fewest interceptions. He was sacked 44 times, but he lost only two fumbles. The 49ers tied an NFL record for fewest turnovers (10) in a season. He showed calm under pressure during the regular season, in helping direct the 49ers to four fourth-quarter comeback victories on the road. The biggies were the 20-point, second-half rally against the Eagles and the fourth-down scoring pass to Delanie Walker to defeat the Detroit Lions.
Honorable mention: Running back Frank Gore has the second-most rushing yards in his career with 1,211 yards; wide receiver Michael Crabtree emerged into the go-to guy with team-highs of 72 catches for 874 yards; and left tackle Joe Staley graded out as the team's best offensive lineman.Special teams MVPs: This is impossible for me to call, so I wimped out and went with two winners: Punter Andy Lee and kicker David Akers. Lee set an NFL record for net punting average at 43.99. Lee punted 78 times on the season, and when he was called into action, the 49ers averaged a 7-yard gain with a flip of the field. His performance helped the defense pin teams back, and no offense in the league started with better field position than the 49ers because of Lee's performance. Often, the 49ers were almost already in field-goal range when the offense took over. The 49ers relied on their kicker more than they would've liked, but Akers routinely came through. He set NFL records with 44 field goals and 166 points (most for a player without any touchdowns). And, for good measure, he also tossed a touchdown pass on a fake field goal against the St. Louis Rams in the finale. What made Akers' season all-the-more impressive is that he made 7 of 9 attempts from beyond 50 yards.
Honorable mention: C.J. Spillman and Blake Costanzo were outstanding on the coverage units; and long-snapper Brian Jennings was again bordering on perfection.

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