Around the NFC West: Smith should get call

October, 26, 2009
10/26/09
8:58
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle wonders if Alex Smith can play well as a starter. Knapp: "Can Smith keep this up? Can he come close? He'd only have to be two-thirds as good as he was Sunday to replace Hill full-time and substantially boost the 49ers' playoff chances. But there's a huge difference between successfully taking over in a desperate situation and starting something all on your own, making it your baby and raising it right. Houston head coach Gary Kubiak, a former journeyman quarterback, said it best. 'You know I was that guy for many years,' he said, 'and when you're the backup guy, and your team's struggling, you can just go in and cut it loose.'"

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider thinks the 49ers should consider Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan as their starting receivers, with Isaac Bruce as the third guy. That seems like an obvious move.

Also from Lynch: Shaun Hill wasn't as bad as one might think. True, but the 49ers certainly played better for Smith.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' offensive line was primarily to blame for the team's struggles. Crumpacker: "Though the delayed debut of Crabtree was impressive - he was on the field for 48 of 54 offensive plays and lined up wide left, wide right and in the slot - the larger issue for the 49ers is its offensive line. The run blocking was not good as Frank Gore averaged 2.5 yards a carry and the pass protection was worse, at least in the first half when Hill was sacked twice, including the 49ers' first snap of the game on a busted play when Mario Williams went unblocked."

Also from Crumpacker: a report card singling out Arnaz Battle's muffed punt as the pivotal play on special teams. Coach Mike Singletary became defensive and criticized former return man Allen Rossum when a reporter asked about the decision to release Rossum and go with Battle. I thought it was bad form.

More from Crumpacker: Crabtree did not disappoint.

More yet from Crumpacker: Vernon Davis set a franchise record for tight ends with three touchdown receptions in one game. Crumpacker: "It was the first three-touchdown day by an NFL tight end since Atlanta's Alge Crumpler had a hat trick against Pittsburgh on Oct. 22, 2006. Davis now leads NFL tight ends with six touchdown catches. Through six games he has 29 receptions for 355 yards."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Smith appears to suit Jimmy Raye's offense better than Hill, primarily because Smith is better on intermediate and deeper passes. That was certainly the case Sunday and the theory is plausible.

Also from Maiocco: Crabtree's performance improved dramatically after he fouled up an audible on the first play of the game. Singletary: "The bottom line is when he had the chance to make plays, he made them. That’s good. You’re talking about a guy that’s been working his tail off and hasn’t been at camp, and he came in and it seemed like he had been here a while."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' offense has no chance to match points with good teams when Hill is at quarterback. On the injury front: "The 49ers have two injuries -- both of them shoulder injuries -- that appear serious. Recently settled right tackle starter Tony Pashos will have an MRI on his left shoulder. Barry Sims filled in for him after the second-quarter injury. Meanwhile, Takeo Spikes injured his right shoulder. Rookie Scott McKillop filled in for him for most of the game." Losing Spikes would be significant. He has generally outperformed expectations since the 49ers signed him.

Also from Barrows: the case for Smith at quarterback.

More from Barrows: Shawntae Spencer wound up covering the Texans' Andre Johnson quite a bit, with mostly positive results. But Spencer also blew a coverage on H-back Owen Daniels' 42-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Barrows: "Spencer said the 49ers were in Cover 3 protection and he lost track of Daniels, who was alone when he made the catch."

Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News updates the 49ers' efforts to build a new stadium. Mintz: "The Santa Clara City Council on Tuesday could remove one hurdle in the push for a $937 million stadium project for the San Francisco 49ers. The council is set to vote on a recommendation from the city's charter review committee, which backed allowing the team to avoid a public bidding process on the bulk of the design and construction of the stadium near Great America theme park."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News expects the 49ers to name Smith their starter for Week 8. Any other decision would expose Singletary to massive criticism, in my view.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News calls Smith the 49ers' "best hope" at quarterback.

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