Troy Smith and his merry band of believers

To his credit, Mike Singletary didn’t lose the locker room after the Niners started 0-5.

But Singletary might have a full-scale mutiny on his hands if he doesn’t start quarterback Troy Smith against the visiting Buccaneers next week at Candlestick.

After Smith’s performance in Sunday’s 23-20 overtime win against St. Louis, the players’ sense of excitement was palpable. Smith gave them 356 passing yards, their second straight win and, perhaps most importantly, hope.

Linebacker Takeo Spikes, a 13-year veteran who has never made the playoffs, made his quarterback preference quite clear. The Niners are 1-6 in games started by Alex Smith.

“I can’t even be politically correct,” Spikes said. “… I’ll just give
you the facts. How many games he won? He’s 2-0. We have momentum. It
ain’t my decision, but he’s 2-0. What more can you say?”

Running back Frank Gore was thrilled by Smith’s willingness to air it
out. Smith averaged 12.7 yards per pass attempt, the highest by a Niners
quarterback since Steve Young in 1997, and his 20.9 yards per
completion was the third-highest by a San Francisco signal-caller since

“I love it. I love it,” Gore said. “The other team’s got to respect that
they can’t come into the box. I know we got great receivers, and our
receivers are happy when they get the opportunity. Now they get the
opportunities to make plays down the field and we made them. It’s nice
to be dangerous, really dangerous.”

One of those pass-catchers, tight end Vernon Davis, talked about Smith’s
belief in his offensive cast. With Smith at the helm, five 49ers had at
least 60 yards receiving for the first time in franchise history.

“In the locker room Troy is always talking about the guys we have on the
team; Delanie Walker, Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, Josh Morgan,
myself,” Davis said. “He always talks about us and says ‘I’m going to
take my chances. If I know I have these guys around me that can make
plays I am going to take my chances.’ That is the right attitude to

Finally, of course, Smith brings a certain swagger and a knack for
making plays in the clutch, most notably his fourth-and-18 completion to
Gore on Sunday. Under Alex Smith, the Niners lost four games by three points or
less. Under Troy Smith, they’ve trailed entering the third quarter in
both games and outscored opponents 31-12 in the final 15 minutes.

Smith’s quarterback rating in the fourth quarter: 151.4.

And left guard Mike Iupati’s assessment of Mr. Clutch?

“He’s the (s—),” Iupati said.

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