Subtle Smith tweaks play-calling

He didn’t use expletives, exclamation points, or all capital letters.

But Alex Smith subtly seemed to agree with fans who have questioned the play-calling of Niners offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye.

Smith effectively dinked-and-dunked on the Seahawks in the first quarter, completing 9 of 10 passes for 81 yards. But Seattle, which was already crowding the line to stop Frank Gore, eventually adjusted to the short-passing game, which almost never stopped.


Twenty-four of
Smith’s first 25 passes were described as “short” on the official
play-by-play (Example: A. Smith incomplete short right to 15-M.
Crabtree). After the Niners fell behind 28-6 in the third quarter, 14 of
Smith’s 20 passes were “short,” with six labeled as “deep.”
(Intermediate isn’t a category).

Smith was asked if the lack of balls down the field was a result of the play-calling or his own decision-making.

“We
certainly didn’t stretch them and take shots,” said Smith, who
completed 13 of his final 28 passes after a 13-of-17 start. “There were a
few called, but obviously I wasn’t trying to force anything. I was
taking what they were giving me. But in the second half we didn’t take
any shots down the field either.”

Smith seemed to disagree with
the Niners’ decision to abandon the run in the second half. Of the
Niners’ 35 offensive plays in the first half, 15 were runs. Of their 29
plays in the second half, four were runs.

It’s worth noting the Niners fell behind 28-6 with 10:30 left in the third quarter.

But
trailing 14-6 at halftime, they passed on five of their first six
offensive plays to open the third quarter. The results, an interception
return for a touchdown and a three-and-out, led to their 22-point
deficit.

“We got away from the run and we really couldn’t get
anything going … the two halves were very different,” Smith said. “In
the first half, obviously, we had balanced run and pass. We did a decent
job moving the chains. We just couldn’t finish in the red zone. Then in
the second half we couldn’t get much of anything done.”

Smith’s
comments are hardly inflammatory, but in the context of his entire press
conference, they are interesting. He also expressed frustration with
the frequent delays in receiving calls from the sidelines, which led to
three timeouts and a delay of game of penalty less than 24 minutes into
the game (read Lowell Cohn’s column here).

Smith’s
on-field performance didn’t improve Sunday, his 52. 5 QB rating was the
second-lowest in his past 12 games, and his critics have more
ammunition as a result.

On one topic, though, Smith and many fans sound like they’re finding common ground.