Smith outshines Rodgers in 49ers' victory

September 10, 2012, 2:28 am
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GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- Quarterback Alex Smith did not throw for as many yards as Aaron Rodgers, but he did everything else better on Sunday.It's Week 1 of the NFL season, and the 49ers wasted no time in getting a marquee 30-22 victory over the Green Bay Packers, a team ESPN The Magazine predicted would finish with a 16-0 record.So much for Packers perfection. The 49ers played a top-notch all-around game to register the franchise's first victory at Lambeau Field in eight tries, spanning 22 years.And Smith was not just along for the ride. He broke the team record, previously held by Steve Young, for most consecutive passes without throwing an interception while orchestrating a balanced offensive attack.
"I thought he was great," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "All game he used his legs, his arm, his mind, his toughness. He was really efficient tonight, and he had a heck of a ballgame."Smith completed 20 of 26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 125.6. He was sacked four times, as left tackle Joe Staley had his struggles against Green Bay outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who recorded 2.5 sacks.Rodgers, the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, completed 30 of 44 attempts for 303 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman's interception of Rodgers was the only turnover of the game. And it led directly to Frank Gore's 23-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter. Gore finished with 112 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries."I think we played good team football for 60 minutes," Smith said. "It wasn't perfect, by any means. But everyone was helping each other and executing. It's tough to come in here on the road on opening day in a loud place, a lot of things against you. And we were able to come out with a win."Said Rodgers, "It's one game. This is a team that was in the NFC championship game last year. It's a good team. Hopefully, we see them down the playoffs."And if there is a meeting in January, the 49ers took a huge step toward ensuring that game would take place in Candlestick Park. With the head-to-head victory, the 49ers would own the tie-breaker advantage. But that's getting way ahead of ourselves.In the immediate future, the 49ers gave a glimpse Sunday of what can be expected from an offense that gave very few clues during the exhibition season.
Smith made good use of the 49ers' improved corps of wide receivers. He targeted Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham on 17 passes. He completed 15 of those pass attempts.Crabtree led the way with seven catches for 76 yards. Manningham had four receptions for 29 yards.Moss had a successful return to football in a familiar place. He sat out last season. He played his first seven seasons for the Minnesota Vikings, and played eight times previously at Lambeau Field.Moss, who played approximately 20 of the 49ers' 62 offensive snaps in the game, had four catches for 47 yards. His 14-yard scoring pass from Smith gave the 49ers a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter."We got what we were looking for and he (Moss) blew open," said Smith, who also tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis. "I think his eyes lighted up bigger than mine and he made a great catch. I'm happy for him to get that touchdown out of the way, so he doesn't have to deal with that."It was Moss' 154th career touchdown, one more than Terrell Owens, and it moved him into second place all-time in NFL history behind Jerry Rice's 197 touchdown catches. Fourteen of Moss' touchdowns have come against the Packers -- the record for opposing players.It was also a record-setting day for Smith, who now has attempted 185 regular-season passes without throwing an interception. Young held the record at 184, which he set in 1993. And Smith's mark does not include the 68 pass attempts in two playoff games without an interception."For me, just making good decisions and being smart with the football," Smith said. "It starts with that, and I think we did a good job of that tonight."Smith was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft. Rodgers was the 24th overall selection. But it's Rodgers who has turned into, perhaps, the best player in the game. Rodgers and Smith have remained close, and Rodgers last week showed great support for Smith during a conference call with Bay Area reporters."It's humbling," Smith said. "You know he is arguably playing the quarterback position as well as it has ever been played. You look at last year, what he did, numbers aside, just his play on the field and as good as he was last year. It's humbling when a guy like that gives you a compliment."