Alex Smith

Troy Smith wins 49ers debut, 7-9 still within reach

You knew the 49ers wouldn’t just roll over and die, right? Instead, they’re taking a page out of the Mike Nolan playbook: start out terribly, get teams to underestimate you throughout the second half the the season, and take all your second half timeouts as quickly as Pablo Sandoval can finish an XL Chalupa at midnight along the way.

Back in 2006, when the 49ers rebounded from going a combined 6-26 in the previous two seasons with a late surge to go 7-9, we were ecstatic. Norv Turner was making people compare Alex Smith to a young Troy Aikman, Nolan had the team playing hard, and throughout Livermore could be heard the chants of “SEVEN AND NINE!!!!!” Well, on the block where I used to live, anyway.

Then the 49ers went 5-11 the next year, Nolan was replaced in the middle of the year after that, and Mike Singletary took over and the 49ers won five of their last seven games to finish … 7-9.

Sorry, SEVEN AND NINE!!!!!

Today, Troy Smith took advantage of the quite-possibly-tanking Denver Broncos to improve the 49ers’ record to 2-6 leading into the bye week. And as silly as it would have sounded at 10 am PST this morning, the 49ers have a halfway decent chance at making that aforementioned half-joking chant a reality once again.

The play Smith made that will be talked about the most was his off-balance Hail Mary that Delanie Walker caught at the Denver 1-yard-line. It was a ridiculous play, something that would probably only work at Ohio State. But the Broncos are a glorified college team themselves, what with their slow, famous Wildcat QB and a starting QB who’s best known for his love of Jack Daniels and neckbeards than anything he’s done on the field.

However, Troy played well enough (12-for-19, 1 TD, 0 INT, 1 rushing TD) to make the incumbent Smith’s shoulder feel a lot less sore on the flight home, one would imagine. Troy wasn’t perfect, but like Nate Davis during the preseason he showed instincts on the field that 49ers fans haven’t seen much of since Jeff Garcia was around. He made his offensive linemen look better by side-stepping pass rushers on multiple occasions. He and Walker worked so well together, Vernon Davis’ early exit due to a preexisting ankle injury was hardly noticeable. Still, it sounds like Alex is going to be given back the job he so richly earned (HA) when the 49ers come back in a couple weeks to play St. Louis, according to these postgame comments from our resident offensive genius (double HA):

“I’m going to think about taking a break and come back and go for a division game,” Singletary said. “Everything else will take care of itself.” Later he said, “We’re going to continue to go forward with Troy Smith right now. As far as Alex Smith is concerned, it’s a week-to-week deal. But we’ll make those decisions when we have to.”
Great analysis, Coach Sing! I guess for you, making decisions is like going to the bathroom.

(Alex Smith is totally starting against the Rams, just to warn all of you.)

The Niners’ pass defense played like they usually do — pretty badly. Brandon Lloyd took advantage with 7 catches, 169 yards and a score, and the 49ers surrendered 369 yards passing to Neckbeard. Still, Patrick Willis had one of his best games in a while to control the running game (with help from Aubrayo Franklin and Justin Smith, who collected 2 sacks), and Manny Lawson played his best game as a 49er. And even though Taylor Mays is a rookie, he’s certainly not the only reason the 49ers’ secondary looks bad at least once a quarter.

This team has holes, no doubt. Especially the head coach, who really has no discernible strengths other than providing a local comedic diversion from Giants torture. But they have more talent than at least 10 teams in the NFL, and that’s good enough to finish 7-9. And with winnable games against St. Louis (home/road), Arizona (home/road), Tampa Bay (home), Seattle (home), San Diego (because they are more terrible than anyone imagined). Really, as horrible as the Niners have been, the only game one could guarantee as a loss in the second half of the season is at Green Bay.

In other words, SEVEN AND NINE has a much better chance of happening than Andrew Luck or Ryan Mallett coming aboard. Maybe it’ll be enough to help Singletary keep his job! Oh, sorry, now everyone reading has to go to the bathroom. Hope you didn’t eat the official snack of the Panda anytime recently.

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