After the most entertaining football game thus far into the season, the San Francisco 49ers found themselves on the short end of the stick Monday night. The Niners were defeated by the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints in a thrilling 25-22 game.
San Francisco is now 0-2 to start the season after previously losing the week before to the division rival Seattle Seahawks 31-6. Against Seattle this team looked hopeless, heartless and their quarterback Alex Smith was already facing heat from the media and fans.
The Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings have also started 0-2. Yet, those two teams have faced much more scrutiny and disappointment then the favorite’s to win the NFC West, the San Francisco 49ers. Why after two games is there very little panicking in San Francisco like we find with these other organizations?
The answer is simple. On national television, on Monday Night Football, on the greatest primetime stage of all of sports, quarterback Alex Smith finally flashed brilliance. Yes, the 49ers didn’t win, and it’s hard to give a lot of credit to anyone in a losing effort, but we can’t ignore what Smith did.
After being drafted No. 1 overall in the 2005 NFL Draft, Smith has been a disappointment in the NFL and labeled a ‘bust.’ San Francisco even thought of abandoning their top pick in favor of backup Shaun Hill, but in the last six games of the 2009 season Smith went 4-2 with the 49ers. Heading into this season he was pronounced the starting quarterback.
Almost every so-called expert has penciled in the 49ers for the NFC West crown, some even consider them a trendy Super Bowl pick. However, everyone agreed in the preseason that Smith was the X-factor and he had to be solid for them to win.
In the first quarter against the Saints the quarterback went 2-4 passing, for 28 yards and an interception. The rest of the game he completed 21/30 passes, for 247 yards and a touchdown. That’s a vast improvement in the last three quarters, but what he did on his last drive was the most impressive.
With 2:12 left in the fourth quarter and the ball placed on their own 18 yard line, the 49ers faced a 22-14 deficit. At this point in the game, there is no way in hell that you can tell me you actually expected Alex Smith to drive down the field, score and successfully complete a two point conversion.
But here is what happened play-by-play:
1-10-SF 18. (2:08) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short middle to V.Davis to SF 34 for 16 yards .
1-10-SF 34. (2:00) (Shotgun) A.Smith scrambles left end pushed ob at SF 46 for 12 yards.
1-10-SF 46. (1:52) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to J.Morgan ran ob at NO 39 for 15 yards.
1-10-NO 39. (1:47) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass incomplete deep middle to V.Davis
2-10-NO 39. (1:42) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short right to F.Gore pushed ob at NO 21 for 18 yards
1-10-NO 21. (1:34) (Shotgun) A.Smith left end ran ob at NO 9 for 12 yards
1-Goal-NO 9. (1:26) (Shotgun) A.Smith pass short left to D.Zeigler pushed ob at NO 7 for 2 yards
2-Goal-NO 7. (1:23) (Shotgun) F.Gore up the middle for 7 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
TWO-POINT CONVERSION ATTEMPT. A.Smith pass to V.Davis is complete. ATTEMPT SUCCEEDS.
NO 22 SF 22, 8 plays, 82 yards, 0:53 drive
With his back against the wall, Alex Smith led an improbable drive down the field to tie the ball game.
In the final drive he threw for three first downs, ran for two and then completed the drive with a successful two-point conversion throw to tight end Vernon Davis. Also, he only threw ONE incomplete pass. Smith showed incredible playmaking ability with his feet, great decision making and delivered perfect throws. Just to remind you, this is on the biggest regular season stage against the defending Super Bowl champs.
The Saints would go on to finish Monday night with a game winning drive and successful field goal attempt that ironically was tipped by a 49ers player, yet still went through the uprights. At this point in the NFL, there is no better head coach/quarterback combo than Sean Payton and Drew Brees.
Still, we can’t ignore what Smith accomplished. In a brilliant final game drive he came through constantly in the clutch. At the beginning of the season he was asked to just manage games, not make mistakes and let the running game and defense win ball games.
On Monday Night Football, against the best team in the NFL, Smith put his team in a situation to win and instilled hope for the franchise moving forward.
San Francisco’s upcoming schedule:
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