Troy Smith opened passing lanes and bought time with excellent footwork.
The San Francisco 49ers pulled off a 23-20 overtime win against the St. Louis Rams, in spite of committing 14 penalties for 105 yards, several of which negated would-be 49ers touchdowns.
Troy Smith passed for 356 yards, a touchdown, zero interceptions and a 116.7 passer rating. Smith did much of this by using fancy footwork and good mobility to move the pocket and buy time against a relentless St. Louis pass rush.
Without getting too preachy, or too far ahead of what's happening, most of the 49ers faithful can see that San Francisco has found its starting quarterback for the rest of the season, and maybe beyond.
As is typical for any player new to the starting role in San Francisco, there are knocks against him. Specifically, Troy Smith's six-foot stature is not ideal for an NFL passer; it makes seeing downfield over the offensive line a bit of a challenge.
A template for success by shorter quarterbacks was created by Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints over the last several years. New Orleans exploits Brees' mobility outside the pocket to allow him greater field vision, and less congested passing lanes.
Mike Johnson, it seems, took note of this while preparing the 49ers in their shift towards starting Troy Smith in lieu of the 6'4" Alex Smith.
No one has confirmed that Troy Smith is definitely the 49ers' starting passer from here on out, but the faithful aren't fooled at all. Troy is 2-0 on a 3-6 team—these simple numbers speak volumes to how he helps the team at the position.
Troy bought time and made last-second passes to the 49ers' best targets (Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis) on plays where Alex Smith certainly would have been sacked, possibly fumbled, thrown the ball away or heaved up an interception. With Troy Smith quarterbacking the offense, touchdowns were called back because of penalties. With Smith, those penalties would have been declined, because an even more favorable outcome would have been an option for the Rams.
Alex Smith just doesn't fit the 49ers offense currently. Troy Smith is showing that in time, he may fit perfectly.