SAN FRANCISCO -- The journey -- from No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft to target of boo-birds at Candlestick Park to playoff hero -- has been a challenging one for 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Throughout, he hasn't gotten too high when things went well, or too low during his struggles.
After San Francisco's 36-32 win over the Saints, he kept it typically in perspective, deflecting credit to others and showing his trademark modesty in this Q&A session with the media.
QB Alex SmithPress Conference January 14, 2012San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints
Q: Alex, what was that like emotionally, that win right now?
Smith: Yeah, its about as good as it gets. Feels great. There were just so many ups and downs in this game, so many ups and downs. We talked about it. We knew it was going to be like that a little bit. Didnt know it was going to be to that extreme. Kind of the whole day it just seemed like. First quarter, come out were getting the turnovers, were scoring. Then lull there in the second quarter, kind of lull there in the third. Then the last five minutes were dramatic enough. So, crazy. I feel so much different than in years past, just the sideline. The sideline atmosphere is so much different. When bad things happen, when plays get made against us, things like that. The guys are just so confident. I think that as long as theres time left, we have a shot.
Q: You felt confident after the Saints TE Jimmy Graham touchdown?
Smith: Well, I knew we had to get a field goal. No, so it wasnt like we had to get the touchdown. I knew a field goal was at potential, absolutely. Weve had a great special teams, great kicker. Knew that hes made long ones all year. So, just to give him a shot, that was the goal really. I wasnt afraid to take RB Frank Gore early. We were getting eight, 10-yard chunks with him. At 1:30, we had one timeout. So, we could do that all day. We could take that down the field. That would have got us in field goal range. Then they jumped into man and as soon as I saw it, I knew TE Vernon Davis was the guy and he made a great play.
Q: Could you describe that play? The pass to Vernon that won the game.
Smith: That won the game?
Smith: We clocked. We had the timeout left. So, I think there were like 14 seconds left. Taking a shot there at the end zone. You get it, you score, you win the game potentially, or you get down, you check it down, you call timeout and kick the field goal. I got the window and I cut it loose to him. Vernon made a great play in traffic, getting hit as he catches it. He deserves a lot of credit. He made a great play.
Q: Did you throw that ball especially hard? It seemed from where I was standing that you really threw it hard.
Smith: Yeah, all week we had practiced it. I knew it was going to be a bang-bang play and that you were going to have to get it in there. It wasnt going to be a lob ball.
Q: On your run you huddled with Harbaugh on the sideline before that. Can you just put a taste through that conversation?
Smith: Well, we went from third and I think, two, and we got the penalty. All of a sudden youre at third and seven or eight. So, the play-calling changes. Offensive Coordinator Coach Greg Roman, as we were kind of talking over there on the sidelines mentioned that one. He and Coach Harbaugh were kind of debating whether or not to do it. I loved it, so I jumped on it.
Q: So, you campaigned for yourself?
Smith: Yeah, I did a little bit. I like the QB run stuff. It adds a little dimension for us. And it was just a great call, great call. I think the coaches deserve a lot of credit there. And then WR Kyle Williams came down and cracked the end. T Joe Staley pulling out in front and got the last block on the safety. It made my job pretty easy.
Q: Going around there, did you see a big open space?
Smith: Well no, once I saw the crack, really it was third-and-eight. The first down was what I was going for. Once I saw that and got around the edge, I knew I was going to get the first. It was just a matter of whether or not you get the six. Joe made a great block on the safety.
Q: Alex, youve been doubted for so much of your career. What does this mean to you personally? Especially orchestrating those game-winning touchdowns there at the end?
Smith: Were still playing. Thats what it means. It feels great. Weve got another week of work and I dont want this to end. I dont think anyone does in that locker room because its been such a great year. Such a great group of guys, coaches and players. I think we love coming to work every day, I know I do. And well get one more week at least. Im loving it right now.
Q: What were you thinking when you see Vernon get so emotional there after the touchdown? You went over there too?
Smith: Yeah, happy for him. Really happy for Vernon. Even at halftime, got in here at halftime and got a little emotional with us on offense and got after us a little bit. There in the second half, really just stayed patient. Just for Vernon, just to stay patient though. The whole third quarter there was not much happening for us on offense, even in the start of the fourth. And then really three or four times he got one-on-one and he made the play every single time. We got the cover-zero the first drive and I hit him down the sideline. He made a great play on that. Then there on the last drive, he made his plays when he had to with the game on the line. So, Im really happy for him.
Q: Tell us what was going through your head before you made the greatest touchdown pass of your life?
Smith: I didnt want to force it if it wasnt there, obviously. I knew we were in field goal range. So, its one thing if you have to have the touchdown, that throws a lot easier I feel like. If youre down by four, youve got to score. We were in field goal range. So, we had what we had in hand. You dont want to force anything. So, really it was if the window was there, I was going to cut it loose, but if not I didnt want to force that. Its a fine line and Vernon made me right.
Q: How big was that window to Vernon?
Smith: I dont know. I cut it loose early. So, I dont know. I threw it and he made the play.
Q: It seemed like you guys were aggressive throughout. What did that philosophy sort of say about you, just the overall push for the game?
Smith: We had to play that way. Just the style, their whole team. Obviously, the way they play on offense, the way they move the ball. They can kind of score at any second. But the way they play on defense. Theyre coming every snap potentially. Its a really high risk, high reward, a lot of pressure. The guy nicknamed himself Dr. Heat. So, its that for a reason. Its coming. And its like that. Its the name of the game. High risk, high reward. Youve just got to be able to make your plays when you get it. Theyre going to have theirs and they did. They were going to make their plays, but you had to be able to make them pay when you got your chances. And we did. Luckily, they just came there at the very end.
Transcript courtesy San Francisco 49ers media relations.