Originally written on NBC Bay Area  |  Last updated 11/8/14

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 29: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers in action against the Jacksonville Jaguars during an NFL game at Candlestick Park on November 29, 2009 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
For most of the San Francisco 49ers, these are uncharted waters. For players such as Alex Smith, Frank Gore and Vernon Davis, this season has been a little like cruising with Sir Francis Drake up the California coast, seeing a land they’d never expected to see. Because this Sunday the Niners can clinch the NFC West championship and a trip to the playoffs with a win over the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park. The Niners, 9-2 this season, haven’t been to the postseason since 2002. Smith was a backup quarterback at the University of Utah then. Gore was a sophomore at the University of Miami. Davis was still in high school in Washington, D.C. The turnaround this season for the 49ers has been quick and surprising, but for the 49ers the ride has been exciting. And earning a spot in the playoffs Sunday is on their minds. “Absolutely, we’re talking about it,” Smith told reporters this week, adding, “this is new territory for us.” Coming off a loss Thanksgiving night in Baltimore, the 49ers...
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