SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Alex Smith had just engineered the most offense in San Francisco 49ers history and the best balanced approach the NFL had ever witnessed when the attention started to shift to this week's NFC championship game rematch against the New York Giants.
"There's a lot of baggage, a lot of history there," Smith said. "A little unfinished business, I guess."
When the Giants return to Candlestick Park, they might not recognize the 49ers offense. As even San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh admitted: "The talent level has been upgraded."
The fact that the only question about the 49ers offense this week is Smith's sprained middle finger — which Harbaugh called "very much a concern" but Smith said wasn't an issue — illustrates just how much has changed since the Giants outlasted San Francisco 20-17 in overtime Jan. 22.
Harbaugh heralded his quarterback Monday, a day after his usually defensive-oriented 49ers whipped the Buffalo Bills 45-3 by gaining a franchise-record 621 yards. San Francisco also became the first team in NFL history with 300 yards passing and 300 yards rushing in the same game.
Harbaugh said Smith "just is a better player" than the former quarterback ever was, even when Harbaugh became the 1995 Comeback Player of the Year in Indianapolis, and has been instrumental in the 49ers' evolution.
New York Giants
4:25 p.m. Sunday