While no one expected Smith to turn into Peyton Manning all of a sudden, there was an understanding that the former No. 1 overall pick would continue to progress in 2012.
So far, the jury is still out.
Through the season's first five games, Smith completed 94 of 137 passes (70 percent), for 1,087 yards and eight touchdowns, to only one interception. Since his 303-yard, three-touchdown performance in Week 5's 45-3 win over the Buffalo Bills, though, the quarterback has only completed 62.3 percent of his passes, for 340 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
While those totals came against an underrated New York Giants defense and a very solid Seattle Seahawks unit, Smith will need to dig a little deeper if the 49ers are to build off of last year's team that made it to the conference championship.
If Smith wanted time to regroup after a couple rough weeks, however, he isn't getting it.
The 49ers play in a division that features three other teams in the top 10 in both total defense and points allowed.
They got a taste of that in tonight's 13-6 victory over Seattle. And after games against the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, San Francisco then draws the league's second-ranked defense in the Chicago Bears in Week 11.
After a slow start to his career, Smith is no stranger to the boo-birds—some of which were out tonight. But if the 49ers are to stay atop their own division and possibly the entire NFC, Smith can't be anywhere near his recent self.
The 49ers certainly don't want to resort to backup Colin Kaepernick, who has very little experience, but the next three games will be very telling for Smith's future.
San Francisco might not have a choice but to take the ball out of the cold hand.
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