“Well, as of right now, Smith will be the starter,” Mike Singletary said with a chuckle at the start of his Monday press conference. “We’re going to go with Troy.”
There’s pretty much all the talk you need to hear to understand the theme of Monday’s locker room availability. Troy Smith will be the 49ers starting quarterback this Sunday when the 49ers host the 6-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Smith will be in the lineup on a week-to-week basis, as long as he’s able to play at the level he’s showcased in two starts (29-of-47 for 552 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 116.6).
The news won’t change the preparation habits of either signal caller named Smith. Both said as much when speaking to the media.
“I’m going to attack it the same way we always do. That has no bearing on the way we’re going to prepare,” said Troy, channeling a team-first outlook.
“I’m going to prepare like I always have, do everything I can to be ready. And when my number gets called, I’ll be ready for this team,” Alex said.
The locker room has faith in either Smith, but said they understand the reasoning behind the decision. As tight end Vernon Davis put it bluntly, the team will support whatever decision is made by their head coach.
“I love Alex dearly. We’re always going to be good friends whether he’s the starting quarterback or not. You have to support your teammates,” said Davis, who had two touchdown catches nullified by penalties on Sunday but finished with four catches for 79 yards.
The penalties didn’t discourage the 49ers. Although there were 14, both sides of the ball kept playing even if the field was consistently covered with laundry (26 penalties between both teams).
Davis relayed the scene inside the 49ers huddle after his second touchdown grab was wiped off the board. The 49ers could’ve responded negatively, but they didn’t. They took heed to the words of their quarterback.
“He didn’t put his head down,” Davis said of Troy Smith’s demeanor. “He just kept on going. He said, ‘We’ll get it again. We’ll get another opportunity.’ I was upset as well. But, you can’t be mad. Things like that happen. You have to move on and wait for your next opportunity.”
Two plays later, the offense got that opportunity.
Smith completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree, a play that was ranked as the top catch in Week 10 by the NFL Network.
Crabtree’s steady rise has not gone unnoticed by his teammates. His four touchdowns in the past five games are appreciated, but more importantly expected.
“Crab is that type of player where he can break a game open,” Smith said. “Him making plays is going to be very important for our offense to have success. Across the board though, everyone needs to make plays.”
If that’s the case, Sunday’s performance against St. Louis was a positive development. The 49ers had five different receivers total over 60 receiving yards for the first time in franchise history, including running back Frank Gore’s three catches for 67 yards.
Through nine games, Gore is having a season comparable to his career-best year in 2006 where he rushed for 1,695 yards and caught 61 passes for 485 yards.
To wit: Gore needs 222 rushing yards to make it five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He’s rushed for 778 yards through nine games, 53 yards off the pace he was on in 2006. His team-leading 41 receptions have netted 415 yards, just 70 off his career-best. And Gore’s 10.1 yards per catch this season is a career high.
The six-year pro showed how versatile he can be out of the backfield, gaining 23 yards on a fourth-and-18 late in the fourth quarter.
“To keep the drive going, that was a big play,” Gore said.
Gore and the rest of the offensive huddle kept belief that the 18 yards needed would be attainable.
“I was hoping we’d make a play and get the first down and we did it. You have to believe and keep hope alive,” said Davis, reiterating the same mindset the team will use for the remaining seven games of the season.
“We have to take it one game at a time, keep climbing the ladder,” Gore said. “We took one step and we got to keep going.”
Notes and Quotes
The biggest non-quarterback news of the day involved the 49ers offensive line. Left tackle Joe Staley will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken left fibula. Staley said he cracked the bone while blocking Rams defensive end James Hall. X-rays were negative, so Staley trotted back on the field to be with his teammates for a handful of plays but gave way to veteran Tony Wragge when the pain became unbearable.
Staley’s absence from the field will be just that, from the field. He’ll do whatever he can behind the scenes to help his teammates prepare for each opponent. “I’m going to do all I can do to help our team, help our offensive line. I’m definitely going to be in every meeting and everything I can to help us win.”
Singletary said Adam Snyder and Barry Sims will be in the mix to replace Staley. Snyder suffered a shoulder sprain against the Rams, but Singletary indicated that the initial reports were positive. The team is awaiting his MRI results.
The team is also awaiting MRI results on Joe Nedney’s right knee, which was injured early in the game, but didn’t stop the veteran from making his eighth game-winning field goal with the 49ers and 20th of his career.
Wragge, who never lined up at left tackle professionally, did a solid job in spot duty. Even if it was at a position he never practices, Wragge was pleased to be accountable for his teammates in crunch time. “I can’t lie, it feels really good to step in, contribute and make sure we got the job done.”
Tags: Alex Smith, Barry Sims, Frank Gore, Joe Nedney, Joe Staley, Michael Crabtree, Tony Wragge, Troy Smith
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