Alex Smith is back! (and yes, that should worry other teams.)
Alex Smith gave the Arizona Cardinals the finger. No not any gesture that will get him in trouble tomorrow morning. But after spraining his finger and having a couple of uninspired games in a row, he needed to show everyone it wasn’t a regression, merely an injury-induced slump. Leading the 24-3 San Francisco 49ers victory over the Arizona Cardinals, Alex Smith made his point. He showed the Arizona Cardinals the (healthy) finger.
For the second straight week the San Francisco 49ers went on national television and debunked any myths that were forming about who the class of the NFC West is. While the other teams in the division may have improved, they haven’t caught up to the 49ers yet, actually, they are merely trying to keep the pace.
Whether they were feeding off the Giants energy, I can’t say, but this was the San Francisco 49ers team we were expecting to see this year. A championship contending team. A team who’s defense can completely shut down an offense (Arizona was held to 3 points, 22 first quarter yards, 69 first half yards, and 7 rushing yards all game.) An offense that doesn’t need to rely on Frank Gore (16 carries for 55 yards), in order to put points on the board, for they have other options. Where Alex Smith does more than play it safe, completing 18 of his 19 passes (his only incompletion a drop by Delanie Walker) for 232 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an as-close-to-perfect-as-you-can-get QB Rating of 157.1. Where Michael Crabtree is a threat no matter who is covering him, catching 5 passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns despite getting the Patrick Peterson treatment for most of the night. Where if the opposing team’s defense falls asleep on him, Randy Moss will punish you for a 47-yard touchdown.
With this victory, the San Francisco 49ers put some space between them and the rest of the NFC West. The other three teams in the conference are cooling off, each one of them having lost at least two in a row. The 49ers have won have now won back-to-back games in the division, with a home game vs. the St. Louis Rams on deck after their bye week. While the division is looking more and more secure, the 49ers must keep winning in order to position themselves well in the playoffs, as their 6-2 record is only good for a tie in third place, with the New York Giants (who they lost to.)
For the Arizona Cardinals, this game is their 4th loss in a row. With Kevin Kolb and Ryan Williams getting knocked out, the Cardinals offense has completely stalled. The offensive line has continued to get ripped through, and neither William Powell or LaRod Stephens-Howling have proven to be a capable running back, with Stephens-Howling rushing the ball 8 times for 6 yards against the 49ers, while Powell didn’t get a carry.
The Cardinals have been comically bad in their two nationally televised games this year, being outscored by the St. Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers by a combined 41-6. If there is a silver lining for Arizona, it is that there was no post-game theatrics. In recent years, the Cardinals have hidden their atrocious play on national television behind their press conference antics. In 2010, Derek Anderson blew up on a reporter who asked why he was laughing at the end of a game they had lost. In 2006, Dennis Green had his “no meme” necessary press conference, where he let everyone know that he knew who the Chicago Bears were.
Things don’t get any easier for Arizona, with four of their next five on the road, including next week’s game against the Packers at Lambeau Field, and following their bye week, a road game against the currently undefeated Atlanta Falcons. If the Cardinals lose both of those games, they may find themselves too far behind the pack that includes the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers, who are both 5-3, to make the playoffs as a wild card team.
For the 49ers, they can enjoy their bye week knowing that they are in control of the division; with very little they need to address. The only problematic thing that seems to persist is the lack of Vernon Davis in the offense. He caught his only two targets of the game, gaining 34 yards. While as long as the 49ers are winning, this won’t be considered a big issue, they will want to get Davis rolling soon, for he is an incredible weapon who can give defenses fits as we enter the second half of the season.
After a game against the St. Louis Rams, they will be playing on Monday Night again, as they will have a litmus test game against the Chicago Bears. A win there and the 49ers can be on their way to an all-too-coveted first round bye in the ultra-competitive NFC. Let’s hope Alex Smith gives them the finger too.
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