By Eric Schmidt

Seven-year quarterback  49ers Alex Smith is experiencing the best season of his career, but he still does remain a work in progress. Smith was efficient last night, unremarkable at times but continued to do what he has done this season, not turning the ball over. In his last five games, Smith has five touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Smith is on pace for career numbers in just about every passing category. Smith needs 19 more completions to set a record, he will set a career high with 138 more passing yards, he has completed a career high 61.4% of his passes this season and has a personal best 91.1 passer rating. Smith needs three touchdowns for a career best, 19 and will likely finish the season with the fewest number of interceptions thrown in his career for a full season.

However, Smith remains to be a work in progress. The 49ers signal caller looked impressive on the Niners touchdown scoring drive at the end of the third quarter, completing passes to TE Vernon Davis, but at other points in the game, Smith appeared pedestrian.

The Niners got out to a 6-0 lead in the first half, but the score should have been 14-0. Smith overthrew RB Frank Gore in the flat on their first drive, an easy touchdown but had to settle for a field goal. Three minutes into the second period, Smith overthrows WR Michael Crabtree, with the Niners settling for yet another field goal. San Francisco also ranks 31st in the NFL converting just 31% of their third down opportunities. That number simply won’t cut it in the playoffs.

The 49ers defense did not disappoint last night, forcing more turnover, four in all. Rookie DE Aldon Smith, a player many considered to be a reach with the seventh overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, continued to make a claim for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Smith was relentless with his pass rush, sacking QB Ben Roethlisberger 2.5 times and hitting him seven more times. Mid-way through the second half, you could tell Smith’s pressure was effecting Roethlisberger, especially with his limited mobility.

Finally, I am wondering if the kickers in the Bay are soak their legs in HGH. 49ers P Andy Lee put on a punting display last night, finishing the evening with a punting average of 47.5 yards, a long of 62 yards and placing four punts inside the 20. PK David Akers kicked his way into the 49ers record book last night, with his second field goal of the night, Akers moved past WR Jerry Rice as the all-time single season scoring leader with 141 points.Across the Bay, the Oakland Raiders have arguably the best kicking duo in the AFC, P Shane Lechler and K Sebastian Janikowski. It must be the water.

 

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