Jim Harbaugh said that the starters would be playing about twenty snaps against the Saints, and aside from the offensive line staying in for Colin Kaepernick, he stuck to something around that number. Unfortunately, with runs and things of that nature, quarterback Alex Smith only was able to attempt seven passes. Even more unfortunately, he was only able to complete two of them, for a whopping ten yards.
On some plays, he got cracked hard by missed blocks, notably from Joe Staley/Mike Iupati and Vernon Davis. On the former, Smith was hit in about two seconds or even less than that. But on other plays, Smith simply made some bad throws. His first completion was a first down to Braylon Edwards, and it was really a pretty pass, but his first one in his direction was far behind him. Smith was under pressure both mentally and physically, and he didn't perform. Jim Harbaugh is of the opinion that he didn't have much of an opportunity to perform or state his case:
No I don't think that he had an opportunity to .... I think he handled it as well as anybody could have. I don't think that with the reps he had in there that he had an opportunity to handle any better than he did. There hasn't been an opportunity so far to really be a clear cut difenitive winner in the quarterback competition, so we just forge ahead.
Given that, do you think Smith will get more time? Colin Kaepernick played the rest of the game, which wasn't necessarily expected, but I like that it worked out that way. I'd like for Smith to play for longer than he did - I want to see his decision-making, even if it has to come against backups. I've been watching the guy for years now, but I'm still not sure what to expect.
Short of coming out and having a monster first drive and Harbaugh not needing to see anything else, I fully expect Smith to get more playing time than he did. Traditionally, teams don't play the starters for longer until the third preseason game, but things change when you've had such little time for evaluation. If Harbaugh said it was possible that the team acquires a veteran quarterback, then maybe he wants to see what Alex can offer sooner rather than later.