The San Francisco 49ers may have finally found the leader they have been looking for on offense. Troy Smith did everything that fans hoped he would. He demonstrated arm strength, accuracy and mobility.
But most importantly, Smith proved he was man enough for the job.
It was a tale of two halves for Smith. His lack of success in the first half can be attributed to rust, nerves, and coaches design to play it safe.
Throughout the game, Smith demonstrated "escape-ability" and extended several plays by scrambling.
After Denver scored a third quarter touchdown, and then a fourth quarter field goal to take a 10-3 lead, the coaches let Smith open it up. He responded by hitting Delanie Walker on a 38-yard pass that Walker caught between Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins. Call it lucky or call it beautiful, it set up Smith two plays later—a one-yard bootleg into the end zone.
Later in the game Smith would find Michael Crabtree on a 28-yard scoring drive.
Meanwhile Kyle Orton was torching the 49ers secondary for 369 yards.
He had a great game statistically speaking, but it might just be something else he is remembered for in this game.
Early in the game, Orton was feeling pressure from the 49ers pass rush and went down untouched. The play was reminiscent of the one that former Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jim Everett was involved in. After Everett was "sacked" without contact in a game, he would later appear on sports talk show host Jim Rome's show. Rome would famously refer to Everett as "Chris" (after tennis star Chris Everett), a mantra that would haunt Everett for the rest of his career.
I used that same reference last week to describe a play where Ted Ginn ran for cover. Is it just me, or is that sort of thing expected and accepted now?
But if that isn't bad enough, Orton may have created a new play in NFL football—the flop.
Manny Lawson came off the outside edge on a blitz and had Orton in his sights. Orton upon seeing Lawson ducked. When Orton ducked it caused Lawson's hands to brush Orton's helmet. Orton immediately pleaded his case to the officials by patting his helmet. It worked and he drew the flag.
I know that the officials are suppose to crack down on head hunters, but this was a clear case of inadvertent contact.
It may have served to fire Lawson up though. He later drilled Orton on a quarterback hit, causing Orton to leave the game temporarily.
Then late in the game, Lawson chased down Orton from behind and stripped the ball loose. The 49ers' Takeo Spikes recovered the ball and San Fran scored several plays later.