Alex Smith

49ers prevail after NY Giants dare Alex Smith to beat them

Vernon Davis caught the ball on the run, and that was different in itself. Opposing teams have been focusing on Davis as much as Frank Gore recently, and up to that point the New York Giants had made it a habit to tackle Davis at nearly the exact moment he caught the ball, before Davis’ feet could even hit the ground. But nobody was near Davis when he caught this pass from Alex Smith, and as he raced toward the end zone, past the 20, the 10, the 5 … he pounded one last step and propelled himself into the air.

There was no doubt that when Davis landed he would score the go-ahead touchdown. That was the point where the San Francisco 49ers passed the Giants on the scoreboard; the Kendall Hunter touchdown run a couple minutes later marked the point when the 49ers officially looked up to no NFL team besides the defending champions.

The difference between the 49ers and the Giants isn’t much, but the Niners outplayed the Giants from the moment Donte Whitner forced Victor Cruz to fumble and the officials wiped it away. It wasn’t a dominating performance by any means, but whenever the 49ers had to make a stop, a field goal or a first down through the air, they succeeded nearly every time.

Even after Mario Manningham pushed Chris Culliver away and caught that touchdown to put the Giants ahead by 1 in the third quarter, it seemed like Alex Smith would figure out a way to get the lead back. My, how things have changed.

Alex’s arrival

Some wondered before the season whether Jim Harbaugh’s decision to keep Smith around was born out of ego. That seems doubtful, but it that did happen to be the case … long live Harbaugh’s ego!

Smith wasn’t perfect on Sunday. But in a ridiculously important game — even though there’s still a ton of season left — against a defense that was selling out against Gore and daring Smith to beat them, he was perfect. Smith’s only interception was on a perfect pass to Ted Ginn, and Smith once again showed the ability to run or take a sack when either decision made sense. It’s like Smith’s the opposite of Michael Vick, whose ego causes him to take getting sacked as an attack on his masculinity.

Smith passed on nine of the 49ers’ first eleven offensive plays, leading to their first field goal of four David Akers kicked in the half. Smith proved to be every bit Eli Manning’s equal on Sunday. Smith wasn’t asked to do quite as much as Manning in terms of degree of difficulty, but after two interceptions thrown to Carlos Rogers one has to wonder if Manning’s ego may have been a detriment to the Giants’ chances. It seemed to affect Manning’s facial expressions, anyway.

The 49ers’ biggest advantage

Akers was incredible today, with a beautiful onside kick, perfect kickoffs (the Giants paid for it the one of the two times they took a kick out of the end zone, with Colin Jones tackling Da’Rel Scott at the 11) and field goal perfection including another from longer than 50 yards. Andy Lee was his usual self, which in 2011 means the best punter alive. The special teams was a big reason why the Giants started none of their drives past their own 22.

They didn’t break

Justin Smith had the pass deflection at the end to cement the win, but that play was a success also in part to the actions of the new favorite for 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Patrick Willis. Willis wrapped up Jake Ballard, and along with a little coverage help ensured that even if Smith didn’t knock Manning’s 4th-down pass to the ground, it still wouldn’t have led to anything positive for New York.

Willis was the only one able to sack Manning, although Aldon Smith came close and got a pretty good shot on him late in the game. Willis was everywhere. NaVorro Bowman was as well, and they both make each other’s jobs easier. Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone scarier on the Niners’ defense than Willis when he’s simultaneously wrapping you up and throwing one of his huge arms at whichever unfortunate arm that happens to be holding the ball.

No. 2 in the NFC? Yes. No. 2 in the NFL? 

The Giants deserve credit today, because they played without their best running back (neither did the 49ers for most of this game either, a story we’ll have to pay attention to) and didn’t look like they had any sort of hangover from their win last week in New England. They tested the Niners’ pass defense repeatedly and succeeded more than a few times, and even though the supposedly smash-mouth 49ers scored 27 points the Giants’ defense was pretty impressive. The Giants did out-gain the 49ers by 90 yards and 5 first downs, and held the ball almost 10 minutes longer.

The Giants are still clearly in the NFC conversation, along with the Packers, Niners, Bears, Saints and Falcons (the Cowboys are probably in there, too; the Lions might be out). The Packers are still the Alpha team, but the 49ers look up to no one in the conference or the league when it comes to winning close games, keeping teams out of the end zone, injuring opposing running backs (where was Brandon Jacobs at the end of the game, anyway?) or grabbing 14-point leads and holding on for dear life.

The 49ers won a game against what looks like a top-5 team in the league without Gore. That alone is incredible, yet today it seemed so logical. A lot of people said this game would rest on the arm of Alex Smith; I thought that was incorrect because the Giants can’t stop the run. The Giants stopped the run, Smith won the game with his arm and now the NFL landscape looks like something Hunter S. Thompson dreamt up.

Anything’s possible now. Like Vernon trying to leap over a guy he probably outweighs by 30 pounds and making it work. It doesn’t matter how crazy it sounds, the numbers make it so: the San Francisco 49ers are a championship contender. Not coincidentally, the 49ers crowd is back. Let’s pretend the Dallas game never happened, shall we?

 

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17 Comments on "49ers prevail after NY Giants dare Alex Smith to beat them"

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topraman
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topraman

Somewhere in a Minnesota basement Singletary is watching the film……

RoneFace
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RoneFace

Alex Smith: he’s bonafide.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16-AK3wQaTQ
56year9erfan
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56year9erfan
I’ve been feeling appreciative of Nolan and Singletary the past few weeks. They drafted and acquired (Justin Smith) well, but just couldn’t put together a winner. Harbaugh comes in, works with Alex Smith, develops plays that suit his talent, tweaks a few positions, and it’s like a miracle. Think about it, Nolan and Singletary: Drafted all of the 1st string offensive line except Goodwin, and all our tight ends except Peelle. Drafted and developed all current linebackers except Constanzo and Gooden. Drafted and picked up all of the defensive line Drafted Frank Gore same draft as Alex Smith Now both… Read more »
InquisitaB
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InquisitaB
First off, 56year9erfan I would agree in some part with what you said except that it was Scott McCloughan making a lot of those decisions. Matter of fact, one of Singletary’s biggest decisions was drafting Taylor Mays who turned out to be a problem. What I really wanted to say is that Vernon Davis seems to have no sense of himself when he gets a ball. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy and what he does with the football. But seriously, does he not realize how big he is? Does he not understand that he could’ve plowed through… Read more »
T
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T
The big difference has been the talent in the secondary. Last year, the 49ers had 15 interceptions in 16 games. This season, the 49ers have 12 interceptions in just 9 games. Hence, the secondary is one of the many reasons that the 49ers are 1st in the Takeaway/Giveaway Differential with +13. Credit a new secondary. Last season, it was mainly Nate Clements, Taylor Mays, Shawntae Spencer, & Reggie Smith. This season, its been Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Donte Whitner, and Chris Culliver taking charge. Yes, the 49ers secondary give up many yards, but its mainly because teams are no longer… Read more »
InquisitaB
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InquisitaB

No love for my boy Dashon?

T
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T

Dashon G has made a big difference too. I was referring more to the new guys & existing guys who have a much bigger role this season.

Stan
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Stan

lol,everybody WAS stupid pre Harbaugh,now names from the past-even on EPSN are getting credit. Smith? 19-32 isnt elite. Its more of him at his best,no need to produce long passes..because he can’t. Not many elite QB’s are missing that from their game.
Smith-like the team is high on Harbaugh fumes..they showed that for Singletary until they realized a brain was needed to go with up the middle 12 straight times.
Worse Qbs have won Super Bowls is the good news.

InquisitaB
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InquisitaB

Stan, do you think Harbaugh is the real deal or a pretender?

Stan
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Stan

I’ve touted Harbaugh since he beat USC with Tavita Richards..and that era was enough for me to post on various blogs to hire HIM,not Singletary back when.
The 49er head coaching problems are solved for years to come.

InquisitaB
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InquisitaB

Pritchard, Tavita Pritchard. That’s bad knowledge Stan.

Stan
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Stan

Dang- I really did know that. Huh,a Stan demerit.

56year9erfan
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56year9erfan

No disrespect for the revitalized niner secondary. Whitner and Rogers were certainly good free-agent acquisitions and Harbaugh and Fangio have done an excellent job.

My point is that the other 2/3rds of the defense was assembled and trained by people that many of us despised because they couldn’t complete in today’s NFL.

Still, Nolan and Sing deserve some of the credit for what is happening this season. Even Bill Walsh took three years to build a champion from scratch. Harbaugh will have one built on the shoulders of others.

JG
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JG

I agree, you see this all the time in college football where a coaching change is made and the new coach has immediate success with players that were recruited by the former coach.

InquisitaB
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InquisitaB
Don’t forget to give credit to the coaches that were retained from the staff last year: Solari, Tomsula, and Rathman. The work these guys did was recognized by either Harbaugh or York depending on who you ask. Tomsula’s impact is probably the most noteworthy considering the streak our defense is on with not allowing a 100 yard rusher in 31 games. Rathman as the running backs coach has obviously made an impact not only with Gore but with helping Bruce Miller convert to a fullback as well as bringing Kendall Hunter into the NFL. Solari’s influenece is obvious considering how… Read more »
Stan
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Stan

Except-Harbaugh has done this at SD state,Stanford and now 49er city. It’s him.

56yr9erfan
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56yr9erfan

Thanks for bring up the assistants, who rightly deserve to share credit with Harbaugh,Roman, and Fangio.

Small issue one of your points. I think that Bishop was the most significant coaches for Gore, rather than Rathman, who is sort of a newby.

But, yes, kudos to Rathman for working with Miller and Hunter.

I wonder if Solari was instrumental in drafting Staley, Iupati, Davis, Baas, and Snyder?

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