In a fun bit of news, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for Week 8. Smith put together one of the best performances of his career on Monday Night Football against the Arizona Cardinals, completing 18 of 19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. His 12.2 yards per attempt improved his season total to 7.94, which is good for fifth in the NFL. This marks his first career Offensive Player of the Week honor.
Smith and his receivers were in tune most of the night as they were able to find big holes in the Cardinals defense, while taking advantage of poor tackling. The 49ers ended up with 107 yards after the catch, which was apparently their second highest total of the last five years.
I was particularly pleased with this performance because of the talk surrounding the Cardinals defense. Even after that performance, the Cardinals pass defense ranks No. 6 over at Football Outsiders. This wasn't the Bills or Lions who struggle to consistently stop any decent quarterback. This was a legitimate defense that decided they wanted to force Alex Smith to beat them. And beat them he did.
According to some tweets following the game, apparently some of the Cardinals defensive players had some confidence about putting the ball in Smith's hands and forcing him to beat them. It sounds like the 49ers offensive players took some offense to that. The Cardinals did get four sacks on Smith, all of which would appear to rest on his shoulders. However, it was not enough to slow down what proved to be a dynamic passing attack. The 49ers did not take crazy deep shots during the game, instead taking what the Cardinals gave them, as usual. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they gave up way too much and suffered the consequences.
At this point, Alex Smith is on pace for career highs in yards, completion percentage, touchdowns and yards per attempt. There will continue to be some ups and downs as the 49ers move forward, but Alex has taken a nice little step forward in 2012. It will not satisfy everybody, but it is winning ball games and putting the 49ers in a strong position heading into the second half of the season.