Alex Smith had appeared to have come full-circle, finally shaking the rough start to his seven-year NFL career filled with multiple head coaches, offensive coordinators and starting wide receivers. Then, in the biggest game of his life—the NFC Championship—Smith failed in spectacular fashion.
Smith had a mediocre game at best, going 12 of 26 for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Smith consistently threw errant passes and led his team to a laughable 1 for 13 third-down conversion rate.
Most 49ers fan are likely pinning all of the blame on kick returner Kyle Williams. The second year man out of Arizona State fumbled twice and lost both, setting up the Giants with great field position en route to scoring on a shortened field—Williams' fumbles led to 10 points for the Giants.
Some 49ers fans are going as far as to send death threats to Williams, but if they want to stoop that low they should send them to their starting quarterback as well.
While Smith had a solid regular season, and a spectacular Divisional Round performance against the New Orleans Saints, he let the team and city down in the NFC Championship.
Smith’s stat line for the NFC Championship is intriguing when analyzed. Smith found tight end Vernon Davis three times for 112 yards. If Davis doesn’t catch those balls and break off a huge play, Smith finished 9 of 26 with a hysterical 84 yards.
While it is important to note that Smith doesn’t exactly have an elite group of receivers around him, the Giants didn’t exactly have an elite secondary—it ranks 29th overall in pass defense. Smith wasn’t poised in the pocket at all, and appeared to check down to his running back before even allowing most plays to fully develop.
Smith was effective running the ball, carrying six times for 42 yards. The problem is, Smith isn’t paid to run the football, Frank Gore is. Smith made some smart plays with his feet but failed to take any real chances, instead opting for conservative throws all game. Even being conservative, Smith failed to complete over 50 percent of his passes.
The 49ers' game plan all season long was to have Smith not lose the game. With that type of mindset, Smith has developed into nothing more than a game manager at best. Bouncing passes off the dirt in front of his receivers was a common occurrence, and he also overthrew receivers when he did take a chance deep.
There’s a reason Smith hasn’t made it that far, and if 49ers' management is wise, they would move on from Smith if they want to sniff a Super Bowl appearance anytime soon.