QBR ranks: Alex Smith back to Earth

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
6:21
PM ET
Alex Smith finished the San Francisco 49ers' two-game playoff run with five touchdown passes, no interceptions and a 101.0 NFL passer rating.

The seventh-year quarterback was a primary reason -- perhaps the primary reason -- San Francisco won a shootout victory over Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round.

Smith did enough to give the 49ers a strong chance against the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game, too. He certainly was not the goat. But Smith also missed opportunities, notably on third down and when he overthrew a wide-open Kyle Williams for a potential touchdown.

Despite 73- and 28-yard scoring passes to Vernon Davis, Smith emerged from the game with his fifth-lowest Total QBR score of the season, a 30.6 out of 100. That was by far his lowest QBR score of the season at home, where he had played at a Pro Bowl level this season.

The Giants' Eli Manning fared about the same (30.9). Both quarterbacks struggled against strong defenses and amid tough weather conditions. Manning took six sacks, fumbled and averaged 5.4 yards per pass attempt (the Giants averaged 3.9 yards per play overall, their lowest figure since 2008).

Smith's QBR lagged largely because the 49ers converted just once in 13 chances on third down, a problem area for the 49ers all season.

The 49ers' weakness at wide receiver stood out during this game, in my view, but Smith also could have done more.

NFL Films' Greg Cosell took a closer look at the coaches' video and found evidence Michael Crabtree was correct in suggesting the team had opportunities downfield. Cosell pointed to the 49ers' first third-down play of the game. Crabtree got open on a sail route.

"Smith, with no pressure in the pocket, did not pull the trigger," Cosell wrote. "It was a throw that had to be made. The result of the play was an incompletion on a late check-down to Frank Gore."

Cosell saw a more confident 49ers quarterback against the Saints. Smith said the Giants were effective in mixing up their coverages to a greater degree than when the teams played in Week 10. He also said changing weather conditions, specifically second-half winds, bothered him. Those factors could have made Smith tentative.

The clutch-weight average column reflects game situations, not how well players performed during those situations. Any clutch average above 1.0 reflects a quarterback performing in higher-pressure situations.

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