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Alex Smith Discusses Cutting Down Turnovers

Alex Smith chatted with the media before practice today and addressed the issue of how he does have a certain level of success when teams blitz him. It was an interesting discussion of the success he's found, particularly in regards to only throwing two interceptions since the October 2010 Eagles game. Alex spoke to how he is trying to do less and not pressing like he used to. Letting it come to him and let the plays happen.

You could make the argument that ties into his performance when he faces the blitz. We've seen the stats showing Smith has success when teams bring blitzers at him. There is a bit of decision-making there but primarily it's about finding that one-on-one matchup that is left open due to the blitz.

An excellent example of this is when the Eagles brought strong safety Jarrad Page on a blitz midway through the second third quarter. It opened up a space for Smith to connect with Joshua Morgan on a modest slant pattern and Morgan proceeded to split the rest of the secondary for a 30-yard touchdown pass. It was a mix of getting off a quick pass and making the right decision.

This weekend against Tampa Bay, I would not be surprised to see a little bit less blitzing. I took a brief look back at the Bucs-Colts Monday Night Football game and it didn't seem like the Bucs did a ton of blitzing. Given the inexperience of Curtis Painter, if they were ever going to bring extra blitzes it would be against him. The Bucs do have a solid defensive line that ranks 13th in adjusted sack rate. It will be interesting to see how Smith deals with a decent pass rush that still leaves guys back in coverage. Throw in some solid corners in Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber and it presents an interesting challenge for the 49ers QB.

QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - October 5, 2011
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

When you guys are going over film with Coach Harbaugh, especially in a game like that where it was a tight game, is he a positive reinforcement guy, or does he point out the negatives?

"You're talking about going over the film?" 


"Yes without getting into too much. From day one, you've got to have thick skin in that room, you can't be sensitive, good and bad, and I think Coach Harbaugh and all the coaches try to call it how they see it both ways. Fair share of trying to get things figured out. The bad plays and things we messed up. Get things ironed out collectively, but then on the good plays as well, definitely giving guys their due as well in front of the whole team. And we all do."

Your skin has been thick for years here, right?

"Yeah it's tough to play quarterback in the NFL if you don't. I think that's anywhere. You're going to face scrutiny. That's the way it is."

Are you starting to get a better feel of what he wants from you, because you didn't have this offseason with him and everything?

"Yeah and not only from him, just playing within the offense and just getting a better feel on individual plays, what we're trying to do, how we're attacking them and how I fit into the system. And play within the system. Be myself within the system, and let it work for you. So, absolutely, yes." 

And seeing everybody else and what they can do.

"Yeah, no question. We're all figuring it out. It's still early. We're still going through things together, new things. So, I think that's it. How we fit into it, letting it work for us and playing with good system." 

What did you think of [RB] Kendall Hunter, [RB] Frank Gore one-two punch?

"I thought it was great. It was great to see that out there. We were all a little unsure on what Frank was going to be doing. Knew he was banged up and was going to try and go. It was great to have that mix." 

Harbaugh had said that he hopes this team has a chip on its shoulder from what happened against the Buccaneers last year, obviously this is a different year, but do you have a chip, and what are some of the keys to get a fast start against that Bucs team?

"Yeah, no question, any time you play a team back-to-back years. Yeah, they came in here and beat us last year. Jumped up on us pretty good, so. Yeah absolutely, even though I didn't play in that game no question, still remember it." 

How do you get that fast start though this year that some of these teams struggled with?

"Yeah just execute. The first couple of games, we actually played pretty well in the first half and got on the board early. In these last couple, it's kind of the exact opposite. So, just a matter of executing early, getting the chains moving, getting first downs, definitely." 

How much of this offense is based on run, not power and doing stuff off it?

"We have a lot of dimensions, different dimensions on the run game, power's part of it. And it depends week to week. Obviously, this isn't going to be cookie-cutter. We're going to see the match ups. We're going to try to take advantage of the match ups. Where we match up well, where we think wins are." 

I know you didn't play in the game last year when you played these guys, you were coming off a two-game winning streak just like now. Did you sense at all that the team was a little over-confident going into the game?

"I didn't get that feeling. I don't remember that. It's hard to say. It's hard to compare the two. I really feel like this is a much different situation. That was late in the year last year. It's kind of a different scenario." 

Since the Eagles game last year, you've thrown two picks, is there anything that you're doing differently that you could point to?

"I think consciously, I'm just trying to do less, if that makes sense. I really felt like I was doing too much for a long time. Pressing too hard, trying to make too many plays instead of just letting them come to me. And that's kind of what I talked about playing within a system, just being myself and let the plays happen. Really not forcing things. Make good decisions and I think the good plays will come." 

Are you at a position where you're hoping teams blitz you because you've been so good at beating those blitzes like you did with the [WR] Joshua Morgan throw?

"Yeah, there's definitely that element there, for sure. I think this team sees the capability we have when teams do pressure us, we get the one-on-ones, we get people isolated in zones, or whether it's man, and chances for big plays. And especially the fact that we've done it now the past few weeks and deep pressure, no question. I'm excited for when it comes." 

Have you seen a reduction in blitzes over the course of those four games?

"Every defense is different. The Eagles weren't a big pressure team. When they did pressure though, we seemed to have success. All teams are different. They all kind of have their individual identity as far as how much they pressure and when." 

Do you feel like the guys have moved past Philadelphia and on to Tampa Bay at this point?

"Yeah, for sure. You have to have a quick turnaround, win or lose. No question. Whether it's a bad game or good game, you can't have a hangover. And I don't think this team does. Coaches and players included. I'm excited about the challenge Tampa Bay brings and being back home." 

What is it the biggest challenge with Tampa's defense?

"Still figuring it out. They're good. They're disciplined on defense. They know what they're doing. They're well-coached. Good players up front. They're young on the defensive line, but really good players. Two pretty savvy corners, played a lot of football. Obviously [CB] Ronde [Barber]'s over there. He's played a ton of football, [CB Aqib] Talib. They both play at a really high level, both those corners. So, it'll be a matchup for us outside. Just try to find our matchups." 

Did you watch the game Monday night, Alex, or did you just take a break?

"No I did watch part of it. The T.V. copies are hard to see a ton. So, I knew I was obviously going to get that game film in and watch it better in here. But yeah, I did watch it." 

Harbaugh has said it was pretty deep in his career that people were still calling him a bad quarterback, and maybe you guys have pretty similar careers, have you talked about that with him? I mean he's mentioned people throwing you under the bus here, but have you talked about, I guess the similar past you guys have?

"Not at this point. I think that's potentially an offseason discussion. We're right in the heat of it right now, we're going. No time for reflection just yet."