- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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The 49ers can feel better about their offensive line after it held up (in pass protection) against one of the NFL's deeper fronts. The St. Louis Rams' line struggled badly against the Vikings a week earlier. The 49ers had two rookies starting and a backup at center, but they helped the 49ers put together a 12-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to open the game.
Quarterback Alex Smith completed 9 of 13 passes for 88 yards and an 88.0 rating. That's what the 49ers wanted to see from him. They had to like the way he moved within the pocket and still found receivers. Smith had built-in excuses if he wanted them (Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree did not play). No excuses necessary after this one.
Third-string quarterback Nate Davis will be the most popular player on the 49ers if Smith is just average or worse. Davis continued to show big-play passing potential. He completed 7 of 16 passes (44 percent) for 114 yards and a 68.2 rating.
Ted Ginn Jr. bought some relief for himself with that 60-yard reception from Davis. He also caught a third-down pass from Smith. Ginn missed two other opportunities. He probably should have caught the high pass from Smith. The pass from Davis that went behind him would have been tougher. It's the threat of Ginn that matters most to this offense, not whether he catches every ball thrown his way.
Travis LaBoy served notice he's still a factor as a pass-rush specialist. He had a sack and got pressure repeatedly. The issue for the 49ers is whether they think he can stay healthy long enough to help them during the regular season.
The 49ers miss rookie receiver Kyle Williams on punt returns. Williams is missing valuable opportunities to gain experience while recovering from a toe injury. Will he be ready when the games start counting? The 49ers seem to like him enough to consider him for the role despite his relative lack of experience. And it's not like the team has seen other candidates shine in the role.
San Francisco's physical play on defense stands out and separates the 49ers from the Seattle and St. Louis teams I watched this weekend. Patrick Willis alone separates the 49ers' defense.
Unsigned nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin does not seem more valuable after missing all of training camp and the first two exhibition games. The 49ers' franchise player will sign at some point, and coach Mike Singletary thinks Franklin will report in shape. Franklin's absence hasn't created any buzz. The 49ers seem to be functioning OK along their defensive front.
The NFC West's run during prime time continues with the Arizona Cardinals' appearance on "Monday Night Football" at Tennessee.