49ers vs. Texans: Analyzing Alex Smith's Performance

After an encouraging performance by the offense against the Raiders, the 49ers were dominated in the trenches against the Texans. There were breakdowns all over the offensive line and quarterback Alex Smith took a lot of hits in the game. This post will take a look at Alex Smith’s performance against the Texans.

I could only use TV footage to review the game, so it was hard for me to see what the wide receivers were doing on each play. I did ask Jim Harbaugh for the game film, but according to him it is currently "working something out" and is unavailable.

First Series
Smith takes a quick three step drop, has good protection, and throws an accurate pass to Ted Ginn for a first down. The defensive back was playing off of Ginn, who ran about an eight yard comeback route. Easy completion and well executed play.

Shotgun formation, three WR set. Joe Staley is beaten badly on this play. Barwin anticipated the drop depth of Smith, and bull-rushed Staley right into it. Smith is sacked and didn’t have a chance on this play. The WR’s weren’t able to finish their routes and weren’t open. 

Second Series
Joshua Morgan motions toward the line. When the ball is snapped he runs his route behind the offensive line and continues towards the flat. Smith rolls to his right with Morgan and hits him in stride. This is a pass that Smith has had trouble with in this past so it is nice to see him be accurate here. Morgan has a defensive end on him and easily beats him to the outside and gains ten yards.

Note: They ran this same play last week against the Raiders. I like the play because it gives Morgan a chance for a mismatch and utilizes his ability to run after the catch. It is just an example of some of the play creativity in this new offense.

Smith takes a five step drop and isn’t even able to set his feet to attempt a throw on this play. Antonio Smith badly beats Mike Iupati from the outset. Like the Saints game, Smith really has no chance to even get the ball off here.

They use a shotgun formation here. Smith is again pressured and is hit as he lets the ball go to Ted Ginn, who can’t keep two feet in bounds. This time it is Adam Snyder (who was at RG) who is beaten badly. It wasn’t the best pass by Smith, who threw the ball high and wide. But again, he was being pressured and had to let it go before he wanted to. 

Third Series
On the first play Smith is again in a shotgun formation. Ronald Johnson is given a lot of room by the cornerback on the play and is open but the pass is batted down at the line of scrimmage, familiar sight last season.

Fourth Series
Again, the 49ers are in shotgun formation. It doesn’t seem to matter though, because the Texans still get more pressure on Smith. There is a complete breakdown on the right side of the line. Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, and Chilo Rachal are all beaten on the play. Pressure from Antonio Dixon forces Smith to set up and Brian Cushing is there waiting for him. Smith is again hit as he throws, the ball sails and is almost intercepted.

The 49ers again put Smith in shotgun. This time, pressure comes right up the middle of the pocket and Smith is again hit as he throws. It is again Antonio Dixon with the pressure, as he beats Jonathan Goodwin with a swim move. Smith did have Kendall Hunter open as a check down receiver but doesn’t see him. Instead, he throws a ball deep down the middle that doesn’t have a chance and he is picked off.

Note: There were 24 seconds left in the half on a 2nd and 10 on the Texans 47 yard-line. Still, a poor decision by Smith to throw that ball with a check down receiver there and another down to work with. 

Alex Smith went 2/6 for 17 yards and was sacked twice. Of those four incompletions, one was batted down and one was intercepted. There was only one incompletion where he wasn’t hit while he threw, and that was the batted ball. I’m not making Alexcuses, I’m just telling you the breakdown. 

Since I’m not a 49er coach, I can’t tell you how much of it was missed communication, missed protection adjustments, or the 49ers receivers not adjusting their routes correctly. What I can tell you though, is that there were too many plays where offensive lineman were just flat out beaten. 

What do you guys think? Which part of the offense should bear most of the blame?

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