The San Francisco 49ers were pretty lucky to escape with a victory last night against the Seattle Seahawks. The team moved to a 5-2 record on the season before their Monday Night Football showdown with the Arizona Cardinals. And if fans are going to thank anyone, it should be Frank Gore, along with the 49ers defense and special teams.
This was a battle to the very end, as San Francisco never had full control. From where I was sitting, it was largely due to the performance of Alex Smith and his inability to take control of his team.
And while he came back in the second half and executed well enough to win the game, he did so with an elementary game plan. After some halftime adjustments, the 49ers limited Smith to short throws, letting his backs and tight ends do the legwork.
It was clear the staff had to simplify things, because the game plan clearly wasn't working.
Last night Alex Smith completed only two passes over 10 yards in the air. 70% of his passing yards came after the catch.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 19, 2012
The most troubling thing about Alex Smith's performance was the ineptitude of his field vision. Not once he did properly anticipate a throw, or make a significant completion that would warrant acclaim on his end.
And taking into account the level of Seattle's defense, Smith still should have played better. After looking at the film again, it's clear he left points on the field. In a game where points were at a premium, Smith failed to stand out as the better quarterback as he could not capitalize on the opportunities the defense gave him.
He missed two touchdowns: one down the left sideline to Kyle Williams and one to Randy Moss in the back of the end zone that resulted in an interception.
The one to Williams had a little too much air under it and it was a tough throw, but Smith connected on a very similar throw to Michael Crabtree for a TD against Buffalo. So, he could've made the throw, its just consistency that's an issue.
The missed TD to Randy Moss was a bigger deal because the play resulted in a red-zone turnover. At that point he wasn't even game managing - this was vintage Alex Smith, not mistake-free Alex Smith. On this play, the Niners quarterback had an opportunity to extend the lead and perhaps put the game away.
Before Moss is even open in the back of the end zone, Smith has Crabtree open to his right. Richard Sherman is a few yards behind him, and out of position to make a play on the ball. If Smith throws a dart to Crabtree's outside shoulder, he can lead him to the pylon for a potential touchdown.
Crabtree is a YAC machine after all.
However, Smith's footwork is heinous on the play, so the window on that option is closed.
As Smith progresses through his reads, he somehow does not see nor anticipate a wide-open Randy Moss in the back of the end zone. The Seahawks are in a zone coverage, leaving a gaping space in the middle that Moss fills on his deep in-route.
Once again, Smith's field vision and lack of anticipation costs San Francisco a potential touchdown. This shows that when he had chances to put the game away, he didn't. The clutch gene that we saw against New Orleans did not seem to be a part of Smith's DNA on Thursday Night Football.
If Smith lofts that ball high and in the middle, that's a touchdown. Instead, it's picked by Brandon Browner.
The 49ers quarterback was lucky to have Ted Ginn Jr. providing the offense with great field position all day. But again, Smith put too much pressure on the defense and special teams, when he needs to live up to end. Even Frank Gore had to help Alex Smith more than usual -- and I'm not just talking about running the ball.
That's the 49ers all-time leading rusher pointing out a wide-open Moss in the back of the end zone. Not exactly Gore's job, but that's how frustrating it was that Smith just flat out didn't see him.
He wasn't getting the ball out quick enough, the anticipation wasn't there and he was awfully indecisive overall. For the majority of the game, he looked a step behind. He continued to throw high to his receivers when they did get open, so ball placement and overall accuracy were an issue.
In the past two weeks he's thrown 4 interceptions to 1 touchdown. So even if Smith is supposed to be game managing the Niners to victories, I don't see how that is a very efficient way of doing it. Against two good defense, play after play, Smith didn't pull the trigger. He was intimidated and it caused him to hesitate.
He allowed the coverage to catch up to his guys until the play broke down, then he would take a sack, throw it away, throw a pick or scramble for a few.
Alex Smith needs to get back on track or I can't see him being around after this year. Even though they've made upgrades to the receiving corps, and the offensive line is one of the better units in the league, the passing game has continued to struggle.
The QB appears to be in a bit of slump, but with only one game over the next 22 days, the 49ers should have some time to make adjustments. Alex Smith needs to get refocused on play-intent, taking your chances and being decisive. The 49ers also need to work on their play-calling because that played a part in Smith's lackluster showing.
#49ers Alex Smith has posted a sub-75.0 rating in back-to-back games for first time since 2010 (Week 3 & 4).— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) October 19, 2012