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Notebook: Alex Smith Nearly Perfect

Posted Oct 30, 2012

Alex Smith is no Matt Cain, but he almost tossed a perfect game in Monday night’s 24-3 win at Arizona.

Unlike the right-handed pitcher, who threw a perfecto for the San Francisco Giants earlier in 2012, the 49ers signal-caller had one blemish: a first-half incompletion to Delanie Walker. Still, Smith finished 18 of 19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns, two to Michael Crabtree and one to Randy Moss.

For all those who questioned where Smith’s confidence had disappeared to, he had a response.

“It was in my closet. Found it,” joked the 49ers quarterback, whose 19 wins since the start of 2011 are tied with Aaron Rodgers for the most in the NFL.

Crabtree’s first score came in the opening period, when the wideout was locked in tight one-one-one coverage with Patrick Peterson before stabbing the ball out of the air for a 3-yard touchdown. Crabtree also beat Peterson for his second score, catching a quick curl route and bursting up the middle for nine yards and six points.

Moss, meanwhile, caught a short pass near the left sideline before shaking two defenders and streaking down the left sideline untouched for a 47-yard touchdown. It gave the 49ers a 24-0 lead midway through the third quarter, putting the game out of reach.

"Both guys made a ton of plays for us,” Smith said. “Both touchdowns by Michael were great plays. Lot of yards after the catch tonight from all the guys, it was fun to see."

Don’t be fooled, Smith made plenty of plays himself. He was able to squeeze the ball into tight windows, find his receivers on the run and make the proper check downs to his secondary receivers all night.

And though Walker dropped what could have been a catchable ball, he made up for it with a tight-rope catch down the right sideline for a 15-yard gain in the second quarter. Fellow tight end Vernon Davis was once again the focus of the opposing defense, but still helped set up Crabtree’s second score with a 25-yard catch on a post route down the middle of the field.

Smith also had big conributions from Mario Manningham, who caught three third-down passes to move the chains. By game’s end, Alex Smith set an NFL single-game record for completion percentage (94.7) when throwing at least 15 pass attempts.

“Never seen that before,” Coach Jim Harbaugh said.

Dynamic Duo

Establishing the run has been the modus operandi of the 2012 49ers. On Monday night, the offensive line quickly claimed the line of scrimmage against a talented Arizona front and the running back duo of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter followed suit.

Gore (16 carries, 55 yards) and Hunter (10 attempts for 43 yards), led the early San Francisco attack and ultimately may have opened up holes for Smith and the passing game. The 49ers are now 18-0 in the Harbaugh era when Gore and Hunter combine for at least 20 carries in the game. The contest also featured the rare sight of Gore and Hunter in the backfield at the same time.

“We’re all on the same page,” Gore said. “Coach G-Ro (offensive coordinator Greg Roman) knows what we’re good at and we do a great job with it, the plays he calls. We started off fast on the ground.”

The rushing output was a byproduct of another mauling effort from the o-line. Left tackle Joe Staley overcame significant weight loss after a pneumonia bout this week, lining up alongside right tackle Anthony Davis on select unbalanced plays. The interior line of guards Alex Boone and Mike Iupati – who sported matching haircuts – along with center Jonathan Goodwin followed up last week’s strong effort with another big-time performance.

“We knew we had to be physical,” Boone said. “This is a good front and they were going to bring guys in the box. We just knew we had to root them out and our thing.”

Notes and Quotes

The 49ers are 42-25 all-time in Monday Night Football contests and their 42 wins trail just Dallas (43) in the program’s history. San Francisco is also 16-4 against the NFC West since the 2009 season, which is tied with New England for the most divisional wins in that span.

“I feel very good about the win, very proud of our team,” Coach Jim Harbaugh said. “They played exceptionally well.”

Crabtree now has a catch in all 50 games of his NFL career, while long snapper Brian Jennings played in his 200th career game on Monday night. Jennings’ streak is second in franchise history only to Len Rohde’s mark of 208, which was set from 1960-74.

David Akers extended his franchise record to 24 straight games with a made field goal on his 43-yard conversion in the second quarter.

With 2.0 sacks on the day, Aldon Smith now has 21.5 career sacks. Smith reached 20.0 career sacks in just 24 games, becoming the second fastest in 49ers history behind Hall of Famer Fred Dean (23 games in 1982-83).

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