One area where 49ers QB Alex Smith has had significantly better results than Troy Smith is in the red zone. Mike Sando posted some of those numbers and I was a bit surprised to learn that Alex Smith leads the NFL in red zone passer rating at 125.0. He's thrown
ten eight touchdowns, no interceptions and has a 75.9 percent completion percentage. On the other hand, Troy Smith is 2-for-7 for 20 yards, one touchdown and a 79.2 rating.
Last week against the Packers, the 49ers got into the red zone twice and came away with a pair of field goals both time. On the opening drive they got down to the 26 and also came away with a field goal. That last one wasn't in the red zone, but as we've discussed before that's the Vernon Zone where Vernon Davis has been so effective in the past. That's three trips deep into Packers territory and only nine points to show for those visits.
All that being said, we can't automatically assume Alex Smith would have been a difference-maker who turned some of those field goals into touchdowns. The 49ers struggled to get touchdowns week 1 against the Seahawks with Alex at QB. And we certainly don't know if Alex would have even got the team into position to score. One of the oft-repeated lines in last week's game thread was that even though Alex is better in the red zone, the 49ers actually have to get into the red zone for that to matter.
The Seahawks are eighth against the pass in the red zone but 28th against the pass overall according to Football Outsiders. Their biggest defensive woes come from their own 40 to the entrance to the red zone. That's 40% of the field, but it will be interesting to see how the 49ers do in that portion of play. The Seahawks struggle elsewhere on the field so it's not like this is some kind of make-or-break area. However, the 49ers will need to take advantage of this weakness. If nothing else, I'd have to imagine if the 49ers can get down inside the Seahawks 35 we'll see that seam route to Vernon Davis. The question is whether it will find success in Alex's first game back.