Football: Mistake-free Smith propels 49ers to win
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 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 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 49ers (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.
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 touchdown 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 Delanie Walker and Michael Crabtree four apiece.
“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.
Garrard completed six of his first seven passes but had little to show for it. Jacksonville (6-5) managed only six first downs in the first half but outgained the 49ers 357-284.