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49ers vs. Cowboys: Are Alex Smith And The O-Line Prepared To Adjust On The Fly?

Alex Smith spoke to the media today and addressed some of the problems the 49ers had last week and what he expects to see from the Dallas Cowboys this week. You can view the transcript of his media session after the jump.

There are plenty of things to look out for from the offense this Sunday but defending against a tough pass rush is one such issue. We'll have more on the Cowboys pass rush tomorrow, but given some of Alex's comments today there are some aspects from the offensive side of the ball to consider.

Two things we saw last Sunday from Smith were his willingness to scramble and his use of audibles. He equaled his second highest number of rushing attempts with seven on Sunday. While he did not have any particularly long runs, he had several runs of five or more yards and also his one yard touchdown run. He was a very solid running QB at Utah, but since the shoulder injury in 2007 we haven't seen a ton of scrambling from Smith. Harbaugh mixed in some designed runs and second or third run options at Stanford so we might see a bit more scrambling for Smith, particularly with the impressive Cowboys pass rush.

The other area that will be interesting to watch on Sunday is in terms of audibles. The Cowboys like to mix things up with their front seven and with a beast of a pass rusher like DeMarcus Ware it can create all sorts of matchup problems. The use of audibles by Smith and adjustments by the offensive line could be as key to establishing an efficient offensive attack as anything else.

QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - September 14, 2011
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center 

You've got two rookies behind you and then you have a lead block in the running game, is there any from concern the coaching staff about you and being safe out there?

"They just told me not to get hurt. Yeah, being smart no question. Don't want to take dumb hits. I didn't feel like the block was necessarily dangerous. Then the goal line, you're on the one [yard-line], time's running out. I think there are certain situations when you've got to take that risk."

Coach Harbaugh through his coaching career is big on quarterbacks using their athletic instincts, do you feel more freedom to be improvisational?

"Absolutely. Especially when things break down, something's not there, I use my feet and try to become my own check down, or make something happen. No question." 

Has your mindset changed in those situations now as opposed to the past?

"Yeah, it has. I guess there are different points of emphasis in different situations, but not to say this is new, if you'd have asked me that I'd always say that yeah, I want to use my feet to try to make something happen when something's not there with my arm. So, I guess I would have always said that." 

With all the static you've taken over the years, is a 1-0 start, I know you're not going to be satisfied, but do you feel a little bit better, is your life more relaxed after a 1-0 start?

"A lot better than 0-1, yeah. You sacrifice, you commit yourself to win. You're doing all this stuff, you're putting in all this work to win. Just finding a way to win, however that is. And no question, it's the opener, it's a division opponent, so to get the W is huge. You celebrate that for about 24 hours and then you move on. Now it's the Cowboys and you really focus on getting a win this Sunday." 

Is this the most freedom you've had in an offensive system? And in terms of the audibles, did you call a lot on Sunday?

"I guess not sure, as far as freedom. I've got a lot of tools at my disposal. A lot of things built into the game plan for me to use. So, in that sense, yeah." 

On a typical play are you given two plays, or how are the mechanics of that?

"I don't really want to get into specifics or game plans. Things change from week to week. It just depends on the defense we're playing. I guess I don't want to get into too much detail." 

When you say you are given a lot of tools, what are you referring to?

"Just things at my disposal, I guess, that are built into the offense that help me as a quarterback. Answers built in, stuff like that." 

What are you looking to improve on in offense this week?

"Quite a few things. Obviously, red zone efficiency. We were down there quite a few times and could only punch it in the one time. So, we got to score touchdowns down there. If we did that last Sunday, it changes the game. Third down efficiency obviously wasn't good enough. We have to get better in that area and a lot of things. Third down efficiency, we weren't very good on first and second down. We put ourselves in some holes. In the past game we were only throwing for a 124 yards. Obviously I'd like to build upon that. So we were efficient as far as completion percentage, but I'd really like to get a little more production." 

Get [RB] Frank [Gore] on track a little bit?

"Yeah. All around obviously, yeah. I think they all feed off each other, run and pass. Get the running game going, get the passing game going. I think more production in general." 

When you look around the league, about half the teams had 300 yard passing days. Are the 49ers built to take part in that type of shootout, that you guys could put points on the board like that?

"No question. I think it was kind of one of the things the way the game was going on Sunday that all of a sudden we jumped up on them by halftime, and they hadn't really done much on offense. So, I think that was kind of potentially the thinking there. But, we'll take it any way we can. I think for so long there was always the stat that when you throw for 300 yards, your chances of winning actually go down because often times that means you're behind and you're throwing the ball late in the game. I think week one set the record, right? Most pass yards in the week ever. So, don't know if that'll stay up as far as the trend or not." 

More of those teams won this past week...

"Yeah. No question. Exactly. Yeah, it wasn't necessarily an instance of being game behind. So, don't know. But yeah, no question, I think we'll do just fine." 

It seems to be going to passing the last few years more than the running game. But also, I wonder if that's part of the lockout that it's harder to defend against passing than it is against the run.

"Not sure, I guess. I don't know. I don't know if it's a trend of what defenses are doing; potentially of all the pressure in different defenses. Kind of a trend of these high-pressure, give you a lot of different looks, come at you aggressive defenses, and the way to make them pay is throwing the football. And I'm not sure the reason, so." 

Dallas seems to move around a lot and is constantly shifting, what's the challenge there?

"Yeah, (they) put down a lot of different looks, a lot of different fronts and coverage. Things that are a little unorthodox you don't necessarily see traditionally. You have to be focused, have to be into it, have to be ready to adjust on the fly. Things happen quickly, shifting, during the kick, at the snap, so all 11 of us have to be seeing the same thing and have to be able to adjust." 

Having said that, how much will this game go into where you guys stand as a team?

"You know, this is Week 2 and I don't think any of us are reading into it that much. We're just trying to get a win on Sunday. That's all the focus is right now, preparing to play and beat the Cowboys."

To you guys it's just Week 2, but to fans it's the Dallas Cowboys against the San Francisco 49ers. I'm sure you're hearing a lot about this whole rivalry?

"Yeah, no question, such a historic rivalry so that's exciting. I don't think we've played the Cowboys in the regular season since my rookie year and I can remember what that was like. That's an added deal, but like you said, I think more for the fans than us. I think we're focused on preparing to play a team and go out and execute and win." 

Who's been your biggest rival in the last seven years?

"For me, the division stands out. I mean, all three division teams, those are the big games. You're trying to win the division, that's the goal every year." 

What do you remember about the old time rivalry between the Cowboys and the 49ers? Is there any particular game or moment that you remember as a kid?

"No, not necessary. I just remember them playing quite a bit in the playoffs, obviously. I remember them obviously both having their runs, Niners having their runs and the Cowboys had their fare share of success as well. So, nothing in particular." 

I know you had mentioned that it's just another game, but could this be a big confidence builder to beat an iconic team like Dallas and a team that's been in the playoffs and is very talented obviously?

"Yeah, it's another step. It's a team that's outside our division and a team that's had a lot of success in the NFC coming in here. No question, it's a chance for us to potentially take that next step."