First off, thanks to Fearless Frog for posting this graphic in one of the game threads. I think it's perfectly fitting for this recap. It's safe to say that this game will go down as possibly one of the more bizarre in recent memory. I say that due to two things: The dramatic improvement of the offense in the second half and the emergence of Alex Smith as the 49ers 2nd half QB. Of course, both of these things are probably related.
Given the big Alex Smith news of the day, I wanted to open with one quick comment. We'll have an Alex Smith vs. Shaun Hill thread coming up either tonight or tomorrow morning. We'll have plenty of front page discussion on this topic, among many others. Please hold off on creating FanPosts to discuss the QB controversy.
And controversy there now is. After Shaun Hill was woefully ineffective in the first half, Alex Smith replaced him in the second half and had arguably his best game as a pro. He's had more yards in the past, but today he just seemed as effective a QB as he's ever been. Of course, as was pointed out by several folks in the game threads, the Texans did not game plan to face Alex Smith. Sure they knew he was there, but the second half of this game was definitely not to be expected. The second half showed a 49ers offense that was incredibly dynamic, whether it was Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree or Josh Morgan, among others.
As interesting as things were leading up to this week with Crabtree, things just got a whole lot more interesting for tomorrow's Mike Singletary press conference. Does he name Alex Smith the QB? Does he wait to see what happens in the first day or two of practice? As for Smith, are we seeing a revival of his highly touted drafted status? Or if he gets the start at Indy next week, will a week of game-planning by the Colts be enough to show us the Alex Smith we saw in the past? Soooooo many questions to be answered.
I know the QB discussion will dominate, but there was plenty more of note in the game. After the jump we look at the good, the bad and the ugly, and then look ahead to the Colts matchup.
Vernon Davis - What can you say about The Disease? After a slow start with Hill, Davis had a monster second half with Alex Smith, finishing with 93 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. I know we're only through week 7, but Vernon Davis might finally be making the leap. After a relatively quiet first two weeks, Davis has blown up over the last month.
Michael Crabtree - Crabtree might have been overshadowed in the end by Davis and Alex Smith, but the rookie showed why he (and many others) believed he was the best wide receiver in the draft. Crabtree showed some very impressive skills in grabbing 5 receptions for 56 yards. More importantly, he made some huge 3rd down grabs.
Alex Smith - Are we seeing the proverbial return of the prodigal son? A QB switch can sometimes jump-start an offense, but did anybody really expect that kind of performance? Smith finished 15/22 for 206 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. He showed some of his old mobility and seemed to be able to read the field much better than Shaun Hill. We'll have plenty more on this impressive showing.
Patrick Willis/Justin Smith - The 49ers defense had to spend a ton of time on the field, but things could have been considerably worse in the end. Amidst all this, Patrick Willis and Justin Smith were doing what they could to make plays.
Dashon Goldson - Goldson gets his own line for stepping up to make some plays, including a huge forced fumble and recovery by Steve Slaton (the 49ers scored their 2nd touchdown of the game after that). Goldson now needs to start showing some consistency.
Owen Daniels' defender(s) - Daniels just wrecked the 49ers defense all game along. While Andre Johnson didn't have a big game, it didn't matter considering what Daniels did to the 49ers the entire game. Gotta step up against those elite tight ends (a group Daniels is joining this season).
Frank Gore - Gore struggled mightily this game, and maybe a good share of the blame goes to the offensive line and the play-calling. Nonetheless, the numbers are under Gore's name. Aside from the two big runs against Seattle, he's really struggled this season.
49ers Coaching Staff - While Jimmy Raye did show some ability to mix things up when Alex Smith took over, there were just too many game management miscues. Smith probably gets some blame due to his rustiness, but the coaching staff had it's fair share of struggles. At the same time, I won't go "ugly" because I think things could have been considerably worse.
First half offense - Words cannot describe how awful the offense was in the first half. The offensive line was ineffective, Shaun Hill couldn't make plays. All in all, not something they'll be hanging their hat on anytime soon. The question becomes whether the changes made in the second half will stick, or whether the team will decide to go back to what was not working in the first half. Let's hope for the former...
Arnaz Battle - While there is plenty of blame to go around for this loss, Arnaz Battle will get a lot of it given his muffed punt that Houston turned into 7 points. I'm curious to see if we'll be looking at a new punt returner next week (Spurlock?).
@ Indianapolis Colts - Well, this is certainly a much more interesting game. I was intrigued no matter what, but now the 49ers might be rolling out Alex Smith. We'll have to wait to find out more, but it's tough to tell what 49ers team will show up in Indianapolis. Given how the Colts are playing, the 49ers are likely to need a whole bunch of points to hang in this game. The Colts are clicking as well as anybody on offense at this point so the 49ers defense will certainly have its hands full. This is certainly going to be an interesting week!