That is a bit of an awkward sounding title, but the general gist is this: On Sunday, Alex Smith set the 49ers franchise record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception. Smith has attempted 185 consecutive passes without an interception, which betters Steve Young's previous record of 184.
A chunk of that may have come in certain check-down passes, but as we saw in the 49ers-Packers game, Smith and the offense appear to have more confidence in their receivers. The 49ers did not go with any sort of Air Raid spread offense, but they did mix things up a bit more than we saw last year. My favorite stat might have been that Alex Smith completed 15 passes to wide receivers, three to tight ends and only two to running backs (Gore and Miller). After the passing disaster that was the NFC Championship Game, Sunday's performance inspires a bit more confidence moving forward.
At the same time, it felt like there was still a conservative nature to the passing game, but in a good way. They still were taking what the defense gave them, but mixing things up opened up space all over the field. We saw that with Vernon Davis coming across the field and Randy Moss getting wide open in the end zone. Had the 49ers been rolling out some of the crew from last year (no offense to them), I have to wonder if we see such openings.
Whatever the case, the 49ers will face a Lions team with their own less than stellar pass defense. The 49ers would appear to have an advantage over Detroit. After last Sunday's effort, it will be interesting to see how the passing attack approaches the Lions. There is a growing confidence that would hopefully inspire further strong performances.
QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - September 12, 2012
San Francisco 49ers
I guess the thing that's drawing attention is 185 straight pass attempts without an interception, what do you give the most credit to that?
"Throwing the football is - obviously quarterbacks get the attention, but very much a team thing. A lot to do with protection up front. Stepping into clean pockets, throwing. A lot to do with the guys outside, running good routes, making strong catches, even sometimes being defenders when it's not what we look for and the ball goes up. So, a lot goes into it, definitely a team statistic."
But part of it is your decision making. How much do you think that's improved this offseason just from the NFC Championship Game?
"It's always a work in progress. You're always trying to get better. As a quarterback, number one, making good decisions, making the right decisions. And then throwing accurate footballs. So, always just trying to get better. It changes week-to-week. Something I try to take pride in."
FB Bruce Miller had mentioned something about during training camp there was a white board and just noted-, don't have any turnovers, win this amount of time, one turnover and the percentages go down. Do you remember that? Was that up all during training camp?
"Yeah, we talked a lot about it. There's a lot of different statistics, and they all have different correlations to winning, and the turnover battle is the number one. In the history of the NFL, it's the strongest correlation to winning and losing, is the turnover ratio. We understand that. You can't go out and play like that. Can't just go out there and be conservative and try not to turn the ball over and expect to win games. But the goal is to still go out and try and execute and execute well and win the turnover battle. And we're all doing that."
When did you realize you had a pretty good streak going?
"I had no idea. Didn't know until after the game when they told me. So, I had no clue that I was close to one or what."
You broke Steve Young's record, who broke Joe Montana's record. What does that mean to you?
"Yeah, very cool. Obviously, it's an elite group here that's played this position for this organization. Definitely an honor just to be mentioned with those guys."
Do you remember who made the last pick against you in practice? These guys were telling us today about takeaway Thursdays and LB NaVorro Bowman they sometimes get eight or nine turnovers in the course of a practice.
"Oh, I think he's exaggerating. Not from us. I don't know where he's getting this. No, I mean I think it's something that starts on the practice field. And then that's where we get it. It starts there and then carry it over to the field. But no question, yeah, we're conscious of trying to get takeaways, and on offense obviously protecting the football."
What's the biggest difference you've seen in the Lions defense and their defensive front than the last time you played them last season? How much have they changed it up?
"Well, I think the defense as a whole has just continued to change. The defensive front, the D-line is definitely a strength of theirs, just look at them. It's a lot of guys up front that all can play football at a high level, and a strength of theirs for sure. But yeah, I think they've added some things as far the whole defensive scheme, they do a little bit more. In general, still similar to the team we played last year, obviously the same system in place. But yeah, they do some different things here and there and you never know you play a team twice, pretty sure it's not going to be the same way they played us last time. So, got to get ready for some of that unknown and what they're going to try to takeaway, where their focus is going to be."
Do you think they're mad? A couple of your teammates have said they're probably still mad from you guys going in there.
"Yeah, for sure. I think anytime you play recently in a game like that, especially a hard fought battle, they were undefeated, we were 5-1 going into that, it was a big televised game. Hard fought, coming down to the, basically the last play, the last possession. No question, anytime those games happen for sure, I think they stick with you. So yeah, I'm sure they do."
Winning that game was a big deal for you guys last year at that point in the season. In retrospect, do you still think that's true? I mean, what did winning that game mean?
"Yeah, big win for us. On the road, I think the road thing is still there. It's big, you're travelling east, the three-hour time difference, national TV game, playing indoors, a hostile environment. Another come-back in the fourth quarter, and finding a way to win in the fourth quarter there. Close games. I think those are things that just, you just build off of as the season goes on, those types of wins."
How do you pull off those games on the road, develop the poise to do that?
"As a team, I just think it comes from, know the situations, and not letting it get too big. Just continuing to play football. I think the ones that try to do too much, or let those situations overwhelm them, don't do it. The teams who just kind of go about their business and continue to execute, put themselves in situations to make plays and win games there at the end."
How comfortable have you gotten with WR Randy Moss, to this point? You guys looked like you were on the same page with the touchdown. How do you feel, how comfortable are you going to him in any situation?
"I feel good with all our guys, Randy included. It continues to build and evolve and change as the season goes on. Things change week-to-week, and you continue to grow and get better. It was our first week in season mode, together. I think, just continue, as the days go on in the week and you're getting the game plan down and that communication there, the adjustments. A lot of things happen as the week goes on, even up until the morning of the game and adjustments and things like that. I think, still keeping up that line of communication with all the guys and Randy included, I think he does a great job with that. I think that's one of his strengths. Asks a ton of questions, has a lot of insight in figuring things out."