Alex Smith vs. Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, and Trent Dilfer

Last week, the media, from local to national, officially bombarded us with talk of Alex Smith's no-interception streak.

Harbaugh - not one to believe in superstition, I'm sure - coached another classic short-to-intermediate passing game-plan, and Smith executed well to stay clean through his second convincing performance in as many weeks.

If Smith can flip a bird to the idea of jinxing anything, then so can I. With that said, let's dive further into the past and the future of The Phoenix's streak.

For the superstitious among you: keep your knuckles near some wood and otherwise proceed with caution.

Round 1 - Alex Smith vs. Matt Ryan

Just last night, via the NFL Network, it was brought to my attention that Matt Ryan - and not Alex Smith - currently holds the longest active regular season streak without an interception.

Ryan has not thrown a pick since Week 13 of the 2011 season; a streak lasting 233 pass attempts. If we include the post-season, his streak does in-fact get longer, to 274.

Smith's is currently at 216 if you count the regular season - with his last interception coming against Baltimore during a Thursday night game in Week 12; and builds to 284 once his 2011 post-season contributions are included.

Both men are quite even. Ryan holds the edge in strict, regular season attempts; but Smith takes the lead if we count the post-season. Alex, of course, throws less attempts per game than Matty Ice, meaning his streak has lasted one more regular season game, and two more games altogether if the post-season is included.

  • Name (team) - Reg. Seas. - Post-Seas. - Att./Gm. - # of Games
  • Matt Ryan (ATL) - 233 att. - 274 att. - 37 att. per game - 7 games
  • Alex Smith (SF) - 216 att. - 284 att. - 30 att. per game - 9 games

Math Note: If you're crunching the numbers in your head (don't you trust me?) and wondering how 274 / 7 = 37, or 284 / 9 = 30, it's because I only counted the per game attempts of their full games without a pick.

After Houston intercepted Ryan in Week 13, he had 41 more attempts in that game. Those were subtracted to get his per game average for exclusive no-interception games. On top of that, the Falcon's last game of the season featured Ryan for only 9 attempts, as it was a pointless game that would not change their Wild Card status. I also subtracted those, and did not count the game towards his average. Meaning the actual formula was 224 / 6 = 37.

Similarly, Smith had 11 attempts in the second half of the 49ers' game against Baltimore, where Smith's interception came at the end of the first half. 273 / 9 = 30.

The next closest streaks are Matt Schaub at 89, Blaine Gabbert at 85, and Kevin Kolb at 68. Though it would not surprise me if Schaub's in particular continued for a bit, you can tell none of them are close to Smith and Ryan.

For further comparison, I went ahead and totaled both men's numbers together into one stat line:

  • Name - Att./Comp., Yards, # of TDs - Comp.% - Yrd/Att. - TD% - Rating
  • Ryan - 170 / 274 for 1987 yrds, 16 TDs - 62.04% - 7.25 - 5.84% - 103.4
  • Smith - 170 / 284 for 2030 yrds, 13 TDs - 59.86% - 7.14 - 4.58% - 97.0

Smith had a bit of a tougher road to get here. Played Arizona, Seattle, (and St. Louis), all on the road; as well as Pittsburgh at home. Both men played the New York Giants and the Saints, but Ryan also played Jacksonville and Carolina, and attempted 9 passes against Tampa Bay last year where he put up two quick touchdowns.

On the whole, both men have played surprisingly similar. Though Ryan is throwing more touchdowns in less games, and more yards per game, Smith is right behind him. Given that Smith's offense last year was depleted in the receiving corps, one would expect their numbers to align even more eerily this year. And, sure enough - at least through the first two games - they do:

  • Name - Att./Comp., Yards, # of TDs - Comp.% - Yrd/Att. - TD% - Rating
  • Ryan - 47 / 67 for 518 yrds, 5 TDs - 70.15% - 7.73 - 7.46% - 117.6
  • Smith - 40 / 57 for 437 yrds, 4 TDs - 70.17% - 7.67 - 7.02% - 115.9

Ryan is poised to go on an amazing run with a high-flying offense according to most pundits (I happen to agree), so he will likely pull away from Smith in yards, touchdowns, and attempts; but it will be interesting to see how close the two remain in other categories as the year grinds on - especially Completion %, Y/A, INTs, and Rating.

For now, Ryan might be lined up for a shootout next week with the Chargers; and Alex Smith is going on a two game road trip that starts in Minnesota. We'll see who flinches first.

Both men came close last week. Ryan threw a bad pass into coverage that was jumped on. The Bronco defender got both his hands on it, but failed to haul it in. And Smith had several dropped passes that his own receivers managed to deflect dangerously close to the opposing team; but he too escaped without a pick.

Round 2 - Alex Smith vs. Tom Brady

The record for most pass attempts without an interception during the regular season is held by Tom Brady, at 358. A truly impressive streak - due to most of it coming within the same season - Brady went Weeks 7 through 17 in 2010 without a single pick, totaling 11 games.

Not counting the post-season, the streak continued into Week 1 of the 2011 season, where it ended against the Miami Dolphins in a crazy shootout to begin the year. If we include the post-season, however, Brady's streak came to an end early in the Patriots' first post-season match of that year, against the Jets.

The "real" streak, then (since, in my humble opinion, a streak is a consistent, unbroken line or mark; not an intermittent one), rests at 339, and ended in that game against the Jets during the 2010 Divisional Round - one Rex Ryan called "the most important" since Joe Namath won the Super Bowl.

As stated, Smith is averaging 30 attempts per game during his streak, and to start the season he's averaging 28.5. If he throws 28 attempts the next two games without an interception, he would finish against Ryan's Jets in Week 4 with a streak of 340 attempts - just ahead of Brady's post-season-included, "real" record.

Sadly, however, if Smith stays spotless through the Vikings and Jets in back-to-back road games, he would then have to make it through the Bills, Giants, and Seahawks in a three game home-stand. Only then, based on his current attempts per game, would he pass Brady's 358 regular season mark.

It's all speculation at this point. The team and Alex will take it one game at a time - and we know he could care less about the record. But, as fans, we can dream big and think ahead. Smith has a long way to go, but he has the talent, the coaching, and the supporting cast to get it done.

Knock on wood.

And in case you were curious, here is Brady's stat line during his "real" streak:

  • Name - Att./Comp., Yards, # of TDs - Comp.% - Yrd/Att. - TD% - Rating
  • Brady - 220 / 339 for 2770 yrds, 26 TDs - 64.89% - 8.17 - 7.67% - 115.7

Round 3 - Alex Smith vs. Trent Dilfer

If we go to what we may call the "nadir" of Smith's career, it brings us to that dreadful home game against Philadelphia in 2010, where Singletary and Smith got in a shouting match, the Candlestick crowd chanted, "We want Carr!", Vernon Davis adamantly defended Smith - as he always has - and Smith's football mentality changed forever.

Since that game, Smith has played 26, won 19, thrown 6 interceptions, and 34 touchdowns.

We all expect even better things out of Smith during this 2012 season, and he is off to a great start. But just to make things somewhat fair to former Ravens' quarterback, Trent Dilfer, let's go ahead and ignore these past two games, and take instead Smith's stats from last season - the one where he began to receive so many comparisons to the Super Bowl winning "game manager."

  • Name - Att./Comp., Yards, # of TDs - INTs - Comp.% - Yrd/Att. - TD% - Rating
  • Smith - 273 / 445 for 3144 yrds, 17 TDs - 5 int. - 61.3% - 7.07 - 3.82% - 90.7

In 2000, Dilfer only played the last 9 games of the season. I am going to extrapolate those 9 games to give him a full season's worth of data. Look at these numbers, and imagine what our record would have been if Smith performed like this:

  • Name - Att./Comp., Yards, # of TDs - INTs - Comp.% - Yrd/Att. - TD% - Rating
  • Dilfer - 239 / 401 for 2671 yrds, 21 TDs - 19 int. - 59.6% - 6.67 - 5.23% - 77.2

If Smith played the way Dilfer played in 2000, there is no way we win 13 games. Smith may not have been a world-beater, but him only throwing a NFL record-low five interceptions is one of the big reasons we won as many games as we did. Fact.

14 more interceptions means we do not win the field position battle, nor do we put up as many field goals as we did. Even worse, we end up giving up more points; and, on the whole, we lose more games. We also do worse in the close games that we won.

I am pretty tired of hearing Smith compared to Dilfer. People might like to believe that the two were "asked" to do similar things, but Smith actually accomplished what he was asked to do - Dilfer threw way too many interceptions to be a successful "game manager".

Winning the quarterback rating battle has been shown by Cold Hard Football Facts to have the highest correlation to winning of any one stat. If Dilfer is averaging a rating of 77.2, his defense had to make quarterbacks, on average, look worse than that. That's no easy task, and it's what made the Raven defenders among the most elite group in NFL history.

But Dilfer was not helping his team's cause. Alex consistently has.

The sad truth is that comparisons between the two last year were ridiculous; but as Smith is now emerging from his shell, growing in this offense, and consistently posting passer ratings over 100, the continued comparisons this year have become even more ignorant - yet they persist.

By the end of the season, the only thing Trent Dilfer and Alex Smith will have in common is that they both won a Super Bowl.

One will have done it despite himself; the other because he played great football.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.