Smith manages another 49ers victory

November 14, 2011, 2:30 am
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Based on the comments -- twisted or not -- coming from the New York Giants last week, the 49ers had a pretty good idea what to expect on Sunday."We really felt they were going to load up to stop our run and felt the table was set (for the passing game)," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "(We) really felt it was the right time, and the players did a great job of executing our plan."The 49ers opened with an attack that featured nine pass plays on an 11-play series that culminated with the first of four David Akers field goals.

And the 49ers continued to lean heavily on the passing game throughout their 27-20 victory over the Giants before a lively crowd at Candlestick Park.The 49ers (8-1) took a major step toward a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs with the victory over the NFC East-leading Giants (6-3). The 49ers have won seven straight games for their longest win streak since 1997.The 49ers ran the ball 52 percent of the time through the first eight games of the season. On Sunday, Smith dropped back to pass 35 times, while the 49ers called just 14 run plays before Smith took a knee three times at the end of the game to run out the clock."All week we kind of talked about it, and then obviously as we just got closer to the game, we knew that's what it was going to be like," said Smith. "No shock to me. The way we've been running it the last five games, we knew we were going to have to become balanced and potentially soften them up by throwing it."Smith completed 19 of 30 passes for 242 yards with one touchdown -- a 31-yard pass to Vernon Davis -- and one interception -- which slipped through Ted Ginn's hands and was picked off by Giants cornerback Corey Webster.Smith was sacked just two times, and he scrambled three times for 30 yards.Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was quoted last week as saying the 49ers did not want Smith to be in a position to decide the game."He (Smith) is a guy who they are trying to keep out of position to win the football game," Tuck said during the week. "Obviously, with a back like Frank Gore and an O-line keeping them in third-and-short situations, and even if it is third and six or seven, they still feel that they can pick it up running. I think they are asking Alex not to lose the game."Tuck told Smith after the game that his quotes were not meant in the way they were interpreted. But it was clear that the Giants did not want Gore to beat them. They wanted Smith to prove that he could carry the offense.
When asked if the Giants tipped their hand with some of their comments during the week, Roman answered, "Maybe a little bit. But we really thought they'd be concerned about stopping the run and put extra emphasis on stopping our run."Smith proved the 49ers can win a game in which running back Frank Gore is a non-factor. Gore rushed for no yards on six carries to break a streak of five consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
Gore sat out the second half with a right knee injury. Gore said he could've played, but running backs coach Tom Rathman did not want him thinking about his knee during the game. Gore said he did not think his knee would warrant an MRI.
Kendall Hunter responded with 40 yards on six rushing attempts. Hunter galloped 17 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown that gave the 49ers a 27-13 lead.The Giants rallied behind Eli Manning's 32-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks. And defensive end Justin Smith turned the Giants away one final time when he batted down a fourth-down pass from the 49ers' 10-yard line.The defensive formula was the same as most weeks. Cornerback Carlos Rogers intercepted two passes, as the 49ers won the turnover battle. Justin Smith and Patrick Willis were exceptional, as usual.But the offensive plan was something the 49ers had not showcased this season."The game plan was to put the ball in his hand, and he responded like we knew he would," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He's done that for us all year. He's a top-flight quarterback. Love him."Even before Gore was sidelined with the injury, the 49ers were determined to throw the ball around more than usual. And how did Smith respond?"Exactly how we thought he would," Roman said. "He executed the plan and didn't blink from the first play of the game until the last. I know a lot of guys were excited about the plan this week. We had a great week of practice and went out and executed the plan. Alex is a cool customer -- Detroit, Philly, this game. The guy has some poise to him. He did a good job."Smith distributed the ball to eight different receivers along the way."He put is in the right plays," 49ers tight end Delanie Walker said. "He made the right audibles for us to get down the field and make plays and get the first downs. Alex has been doing that all along. It's just now coming out. We have a great playbook for him to win and he's doing a great job of controlling the offense."Yes, Smith is doing a great job of managing the 49ers -- though sometimes that term can take on negative implications."They call him a game manager and he's a great game manager," Harbaugh said. "But you read it and you hear people talk about him and they're trying to slight him when they say that."After all Smith has endured since coming to the 49ers as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, he said the only thing that matters to him is the bottom line."I could really care less, honestly," Smith said. "That is the honest truth. It feels good to be 8-1. I managed myself into a victory, and that's all I could care about."