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49ers-Seahawks: The return to the previous height of Alex Smith optimism

As we've seen Alex Smith re-emerge as the 49ers QB of the present, a variety of matchups with interesting storylines have developed.  Smith made his first start in two years against the team (Indy) who he faced in his first career start.  The next week he made his 2009 home debut against Tennessee in a matchup of struggling former first round picks (VY).  Two weeks later we got the Alex Smith-Aaron Rodgers battle we'd been waiting four-plus season for.  This week we get another interesting battle for Alex Smith.  The first interesting angle is the fact that his shoulder problems basically began thanks to Seattle defensive tackle Rocky Bernard back in 2007.  However, in trying to be a little more positive about this, there's another intriguing storyline.

Prior to this season, Alex Smith had experienced plenty of ups and downs in his brief career.  Smith put up some solid numbers at times and of course he had the last-minute comeback against Arizona in the 2007 season opener.  However, I like to think that one of his biggest moments prior to this season was Week 15 of the 2006 season up in Seattle.  At that time the 49ers were 5-8 and hanging in the playoff race by the skin of their teeth (the Giants got in at 8-8 that season).

The Seahawks were in the midst of five straight playoff appearances but had been upset by the young 49ers only a few weeks before.  The 49ers were coming up to Seattle for what would be the nationally televised Thursday Night Football game on the NFL Network.  Although the 49ers did not make the playoffs that year, they seemed to impress quite a few people with their eventual road upset of the Seahawks that night.

I've posted links to video after the jump, but most folks  probably can still recall the game.  The Seahawks jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and took a 7-3 lead late into the 3rd quarter.  It was at this point that Alex Smith, with some quality help from Frank Gore and his receivers, took over the game.  Smith showed impressive scrambling and general play-making skills that fell off the map for most of 2007 and 2008.   I think his two most impressive plays, or at least most memorable, were the impressive scramble and TD throw to Frank Gore to put the 49ers up 17-7 and the 18 yard bootleg TD run to make it 24-7 and put the game away.

I distinctly remembered the bootleg run, but I had forgotten about the scramble and throw.  That play showed some of the absolute best of Alex Smith, at least at that point in time.  If you haven't seen it, or forget it, you have to stop and check it out.  Operating out of the shotgun, Smith was almost drilled for the sack by Kelly Herndon before the play could develop.  What was amazing was how Herndon basically bounced off Smith and was shed to the side.  Smith then stepped up and ran towards the left sideline before firing on the run to Frank Gore 20 yards away over a helpless cornerback.

I think it's safe to say that optimism for the future of Alex Smith was never higher than it was at the end of that game.  Although things went south the next two seasons, we have managed to return to a slightly more cautious optimism about Smith heading into the latter part of 2009.  Smith is a different QB than he was that day, but you could argue the offense might not be wildly different from that day.  It wasn't a spread offense back in 2006, but it was the Norv Turner led offense.  The 49ers offense in 2009 is continually evolving, but Jimmy Raye has been influenced by Norv Turner (his boss in Oakland), so there are some similarities.  Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how Alex Smith performs in his return to Seattle.

Total game recap

30 second remaining in third quarter - 54 yard pass to Battle to Seattle 33

11:29 left in 4th - 8 yard TD Pass to Vernon Davis makes it 10-7 49ers

4:09 left in 4th - 20 yard TD pass to Frank Gore makes it 17-7 49ers

3:20 left in 4th - 18 yard rush by Frank Gore to SF 40

2:32 left in 4th - 40 yard rush by Frank Gore to Sea 20

1:49 left in 4th - 18 yard TD rush by Alex Smith makes it 24-7 49ers