While Alex Smith is the straw that stirs the drink for the San Francisco 49ers' offense, the team is coached so well and has so much depth on both sides of the ball that they can survive the schedule if their quarterback has to miss time due to a concussion.
Smith was injured in the second quarter of Sunday's game against St. Louis, though he did stay in the game after taking the hit from Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar long enough to throw a touchdown pass, according to ESPN.com.
With a huge Monday night game against the Bears, who also have a starting quarterback dealing with a concussion, on the horizon, Smith's status for Week 11 remains uncertain.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference that Smith was doing better after a good night's sleep and that Smith's "symptoms were positive today."
While the 49ers await word from an independent neurologist on how good or bad Smith's concussion is, there is no real danger in this team collapsing if the quarterback has to miss game action.
Even throwing out the caveat of the small sample size, Colin Kaepernick performed well in relief of Smith last week. He completed 11-of-17 passes for 117 yards and added 66 yards on the ground. He also led two scoring drives in the fourth quarter to keep the 49ers in the game.
But more important than Kaepernick is the depth the 49ers have built, as well as the coaching style Harbaugh utilizes.
Starting with the depth, the 49ers throw out two running backs, four wide receivers, an All-Pro tight end and one of the best and deepest offensive lines. The defense is fast and attacks the ball as well as any team in the NFL.
As for the coaching, the 49ers are the best team in the league at finding a weakness on a team and exploiting it to their advantage. If you can stop the pass, they are going to run the ball down your throat. If you are great up front, they are going to open up the passing game until you prove you can stop it.
The next two weeks see the 49ers play the Bears and Saints. Those two teams have glaring weaknesses that can easily be exploited. The Bears, with or without Cutler, are prone to quarterbacks who make mistakes and have a bad offensive line.
The 49ers have a defensive line filled with pass-rushers who can breakthrough any line to lay a beating on an opposing quarterback.
The Saints haven't been able to stop anyone on defense all season. The 49ers will run the ball and control the clock in order to keep Drew Brees off the field. Harbaugh is a master manipulator and will do anything to swing the game in his favor.
Even if Smith can't go for a few games due to the concussion, the 49ers are going to be fine. The NFC West looks a lot more formidable than anyone expected, but this team is still the class of the division.
Smith will have to return for the 49ers to reach their Super Bowl potential, but they will survive a few regular-season games without him, if need be.
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