Smith’s crisp day leads 49ers past Jaguars
November 30, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO – Alex Smith threw crisp passes all afternoon. San Francisco’s defense got to the quarterback and forced fumbles. The 49ers finally produced the kind of mistake-free performance on both sides of the ball coach Mike Singletary has been waiting to see from his team.
Smith completed short touchdown passes to Frank Gore and Vernon Davis in his best game yet this season, highlighting an all-around sound day for San Francisco in a 20-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
For a team that began the season with plans of being defined by the run, the 49ers are suddenly opening things up with Smith behind center. Five receivers had four or more catches.
“It’s pretty much the growth of this offense,” Smith said. “In the NFL, you have to be balanced. You have to be able to do it different ways to find ways to win.”
Joe Nedney kicked field goals of 46 and 27 yards for the Niners (5-6), who snapped the Jaguars’ three-game winning streak and spoiled the Bay Area homecoming of Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio and running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
The Jaguars’ loss clinched the AFC South title for the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts, who rallied to win at Houston earlier Sunday.
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Jones-Drew, a prep star at powerhouse De La Salle High School on the other side of San Francisco Bay, ran for 75 yards to become a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in his career. He is only the second player in franchise history to do it, joining Fred Taylor’s seven such efforts. Jones-Drew had his streak of five straight games with a TD run snapped.
San Francisco’s defense came up with two fumble recoveries off second-half sacks, including Parys Haralson’s hit on David Garrard early in the fourth quarter for a 20-yard loss.
Smith threw for 232 yards with no interceptions and no sacks in his best game since taking over as starter in late October. Gore had seven catches, Josh Morgan and Davis six each and four apiece from Delanie Walker and Michael Crabtree.
“The absolute best thing that happened this week was I saw leadership on the offensive side of the ball,” Singletary said. “In terms of: ‘Coach, this is what I think would work. This is what I think we need. Can we do this? Can we do more spread? Can we put it on us, the receivers?'”
He credited Davis, Smith and even Crabtree – the rookie top draft pick – for offering their input.
Josh Scobee kicked a 32-yard field goal for the Jaguars (6-5), but also missed wide left on a 40-yard try early in the second quarter and his 21-yarder in the fourth hit the left upright. He made a disgusted face afterward. The second miss matched the shortest in the NFL this season. The Giants’ Lawrence Tynes also failed on a 21-yarder in Week 3 against Tampa Bay, according to STATS LLC.
“The short one was unacceptable, plain and simple,” Scobee said. “I take full responsibility for it. I am a professional.”
What is it about these West Coast woes for Jacksonville? The Jaguars lost 41-0 at Seattle on Oct. 11 and never threatened Sunday. This marked the second time in franchise history – also in 2004 – the team played two road games out West.
Garrard completed six of his first seven passes but had little to show for it. Jacksonville managed only six first downs in the first half but wound up outgaining the Niners 357-284. Torry Holt made a reception for the 164th consecutive game and passed Andre Reed to move into 10th place on the career list for yards receiving at 13,226.
For the 49ers, this was just the kind of methodical win Singletary has insisted his team can produce.
San Francisco had lost five of six since a promising 3-1 start, the last four of those defeats by seven or fewer points. Singletary and his players acknowledge they’ve regularly beaten themselves.
“We have emphasized that during the week, not beating ourselves” Haralson said.
Smith threw 29 times in the first half, a career high for a half, and his 18 attempts tied his most. His heads-up decision-making had to make Singletary happy.
Smith connected with Crabtree for a 27-yard pass play on third-and-10 from the 36 midway through the second quarter, getting the 49ers in the red zone for the first time.
Morgan then made a 6-yard reception to set up Davis’ 3-yard TD catch two plays later – the ninth of the season for the tight end.
Smith faked right, turned to his left and found a wide-open Davis in the left corner of the end zone.
Davis also had a 30-yard catch on fourth-and-1 late in the first half.
NOTES: Jones-Drew, who expected several hundred fans in the stands at Candlestick Park to support him, was held below 100 yards for the second straight game. He ran for 66 yards in a win over Buffalo last Sunday. “It’s real tough,” he said. “I hadn’t seen these people in so long, and to come out here and really not do anything, it’s frustrating.” … Gore ran for 33 of San Francisco’s 52 yards on the ground.