Well, it definitely means something now, and the road team felt something it wouldn’t have otherwise desired. The ‘Hawks lost their first-place standing to the big bully on the block.
This Week 7 matchup played out in such a way where the masses would neglect this as normal happenstance football. But Thursday featured something entirely more.
What appeared as a rather innocuous game on the scoreboard was actually a psychological battle within the mind of the 49ers’ starting quarterback.
Alex Smith’s play was nothing short of a man on a self-appointed mission—a quarterback trying to prove something to the outside world that just wasn’t necessary.
On the first drive of the game, Smith orchestrated a balanced attack with an even ratio of run-to-pass. Frank Gore was consistently pushing forward, and even some guy named Randy Moss took 14 yards off the distance to the end zone.
But on 3rd-and-6 at the Seattle 41, Smith neglected what constitutes him as an efficient quarterback. Gore was wide open with room to move the chains as the check-down option, yet Smith opted for a deep pass down the left sideline.
He completely overthrew Kyle Williams in the end zone and the drive stalled without even a field goal. Smith went effectively AWOL on a series that could have set the tone for the entire game.
Smith’s questionable mindset wasn’t reduced to the first drive; he took an unnecessary sack on third down the very next series. He then repeated his indecisiveness on the 49ers’ final drive before the half, taking yet another sack at midfield after Ted Ginn had just put the team in great field position.
To be sure, this isn’t an arbitrary or unfair critique of a quarterback that has been so maligned in the past. Smith did throw a touchdown pass to Delanie Walker that fueled San Francisco’s walk down victory lane.
Rather, it’s a respectful attempt at understanding the choices that Smith made and how he operated throughout the game.
His decisions seemed a direct result of the remarkable success versus the monumental failure between the Bills and the Giants matchups. He produced one of the best outputs by a quarterback in Week 3, and then followed it up with an absolute flop a week later.
Smith’s accuracy on the deep ball vanished from one week to another, and he seemed dead-set on reclaiming the respect that he so quickly lost. It was as if he wanted to answer the proverbial demons that had been plaguing him since he entered the league.
Luckily for the 49ers, the defense held strong at the biggest moments and Gore wasn’t forgotten as the team’s most important playmaker.
However, Jim Harbaugh has some serious work to do with regards to setting his quarterback back on the right path. Smith needs to focus on the obstacles on the gridiron, rather than the ones in his own head.
But hey—two divisional rivals sat on top the proverbial mountaintop—and one changed the reservation to one.
For a game that featured a relatively even dialogue between offense, defense and special teams, the 49ers ruled the roost where it mattered most.
The final score was indeed in their favor; 13-6 is something that Smith can be happy about—for now.
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