Thanks in large part to head coach Jim Harbaugh and the rest of the team's coaching staff, the 49ers appear to be on their way to another fantastic finish. Heading into their bye week, San Francisco's 6-2 record also accompanies the best rushing game in the NFL and the best defense.
Quarterback Alex Smith has played a huge role in this team's success. At the halfway point he is completing 69.4 percent of his passes, his quarterback rating is 102.1 and he is on pace to set career highs in just about every statistical throwing category.
But don't think Smith will only be looking for ways to hone his skills even more during the bye—Visa and Smith have teamed up to promote Visa’s "Make it Epic" campaign for the 2012-2013 season. If you're not familiar with the Visa "Make it Epic" campaign, here's a quick rundown.
Visa is giving Visa account holders once-in-a-lifetime type experiences by allowing them to register for different game-day opportunities. One lucky fan could interview Ray Lewis, another will have the chance to sit in on Jim Harbaugh's game-day speech and, lastly, another will watch an NFL game on a Sunday with Hall of Fame coach John Madden in his infamous viewing studio.
Not to mention fans have the opportunity to win other prizes from participating merchants like NFLShop.com, Papa John’s, 24 Hour Fitness, DIRECTV, Sports Illustrated, LIDS and EA SPORTS. To enroll in Visa's "Make it Epic campaign just navigate your web browser to www.visa.com/MakeItEpic
Bleacher Report: If you were to win the Visa Unique Fan and Experiences package, which package would you choose?
Alex Smith: The game-day experience is very very unique, very cool and I think a chance for someone to sit down and interview Ray Lewis, a first ballot Hall of Famer, is very, very unique. You know, then the Super Bowl as well, that’s the ultimate, those three jump out at me. I think those are all very unique things that not many people get to do if you’re a fan. Those all jump out at me.
Bleacher Report: What have you learned under head coach Jim Harbaugh, and how has Harbaugh made you a better QB?
Alex Smith: For one, it all starts off with the guy who played 15 years in the NFL at my position. We both played quarterback, so to start off there it’s just great perspective for me. It’s not just coaching, I mean although that’s the most important, you get coached every single day by a guy who played my position. He’s been in the pocket, he knows what’s going on, he knows what it is like. But it could be things off the field, on the field, whatever, a guy I can go to. There’s not much he doesn’t have a little insight on. Which has been great.
Bleacher Report: Do you consider yourself a game manager?
Alex Smith: I consider myself a football player. I’m an NFL quarterback and I’m trying to win games, nothing else. For people that look at me like that, it’s convenient for guys to look at fantasy numbers and things like that. We are different, we are a balanced offense and we take a lot of pride in that we can do both. We are not just this pass-happy team that is just concerned about stats you know—we don’t care about those things around here and it’s a different mindset you know? I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s just different, it’s the way we do things and I definitely believe in it.
Bleacher Report: How does it feel having to square off against three top-10 defenses in the NFC West?
Alex Smith: The division has definitely changed, you know, and it has been happening, but I think every defense in the division is a top-10 defense or something like that, but they are all good. I mean, Seattle is one of the top defenses, Arizona is one of the top defenses and the Rams as well. Obviously I don’t have to play ours, which is really good. So, it’s a tough division you know and it’s a different type of game and you can see a little different type of football going on—taking pride in defense and stopping the run.
Bleacher Report: It has definitely changed a lot since you were drafted No. 1 overall in 2005.
Alex Smith: For sure, for sure and it’s a good thing. I think it’s great.
Bleacher Report: In your opinion, who is the toughest defense you square off against in either the NFC or the AFC? Would your NFC West foe Seattle be one of those?
Alex Smith: Yeah, Seattle for sure. They just play great defense. Great team football over there, they were last year and they have continued it this year—very good. Obviously, you look at the Bears. A little bit of a history of playing good defense and they have continued that this year, just playing really good football. Besides ourselves, those are the two teams that jump out at me...And you certainly can't leave out the Giants. I don't think their defense gets a ton of attention, but I mean across the board on that defense, starting with their front four, a bunch of playmakers. They play good defense and you're not winning the Super Bowl unless you're playing good defense.
Bleacher Report: What does Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman mean to the 49ers defense?
Alex Smith: The thing that is so special about those guys is that they are always on the field. There are so many linebackers that get in a pass situation and you have to get them off the field because they are a liability and then run you get them back in there. These are two guys that can do it all. They cover tight ends, they cover backs, sometimes they are covering receivers. They can do that, though, because they are athletic enough, fast enough, can make plays on the ball and they are just as good in the run game. That's unique, it's unique to see guys like that, certainly two of them on the same team in the NFL.
Bleacher Report: What was your reaction to winning NFC offensive player of the week for the first time?
Alex Smith: For me, No. 1, I didn't put a whole lot of stock into it. But No. 2, my name is getting put up there, but for sure it's an offensive thing. Quarterbacks don't go out there and do these things on their own, it's because of all the guys around them. And for me it's no different—Monday night a bunch of guys making plays. Starting with the guys up front played extremely well, especially the guys outside. They were making plays for me, making me look good, so even though my name is on there, those guys deserve the credit.
Bleacher Report: What it's like playing with arguably the NFL's best offensive line?
Alex Smith: I do think we are unique in the sense of how much we try to be balanced and we ask our offensive line to do a lot of different things run and pass. They take it all on—everything we do starts with them. They really set the tone for us and they've played great all year.
Bleacher Report: Which other quarterbacks do you admire, or try to emulate?
Alex Smith: Growing up, Elway for me was a guy I always looked to and wanted to be like. Now as a player—there are a lot of guys I look at and take things from. I don't know if there is any one. I try to take things from a lot of guys, a lot of my peers, especially the guys at the top. I think it's the guys that do it week in and week out—the guys that aren't always trying to take credit for things and they put the team first. Aaron played the game of quarterback last year and this year at such a high level.
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