Alex Smith is realistic. He expected to get booed again. A win
feels great, yet it’s still only one.
Somebody had to come through all the sloppiness – and Smith
raised his game at last.
When the home crowd began jeering Smith for a second straight
week and begging for backup David Carr, it looked to be another
long day for San Francisco’s embattled quarterback.
Instead, Smith threw second-half touchdown passes to Michael
Crabtree and Vernon Davis and the 49ers finally won their first
game, beating the Oakland Raiders 17-9 on Sunday in a
”You’ve got to start with one. You’ve got to start somewhere,”
Smith said. ”You try to fix the negatives and build on the
positives from the last five weeks.”
Crabtree made a go-ahead 32-yard TD reception on the last play
of the third quarter and Smith hit Davis on a 17-yard score with
7:14 remaining. Frank Gore ran for 149 yards, including a 64-yard
scramble that set up Davis’ third touchdown of the season.
”I feel like I just took a whole house off my back that was
weighing us down,” Davis said.
Smith overcame a slow start to go 16 of 33 for 196 yards in his
first turnover-free game of 2010, though San Francisco committed 11
penalties for 143 yards. The Niners, whose 1-5 start is the
franchise’s worst since Bill Walsh’s first team lost its initial
seven games in 1979, denied Oakland its first back-to-back
victories since 2008.
Sebastian Janikowski kicked field goals of 27, 24 and 40 yards
for the Raiders (2-4). Oakland had eight penalties for 60 yards in
a game that was played through a steady drizzle into the second
Jason Campbell, like Smith a first-round draft pick in 2005,
completed 8 of 21 passes for 83 yards and was sacked twice playing
in place of the injured Bruce Gradkowski. The Raiders struggled to
convert on offense a week after they beat the Chargers to end a
13-game losing streak to San Diego.
Oakland drove inside the Niners 10 on its first two series but
settled for field goals. Janikowski kicked a 40-yarder with 8:21
left, set up by two long catches by Zach Miller.
”We started off strong but we didn’t get those touchdowns and
it was kind of like the air went out,” Campbell said. ”It was a
frustrating day. We lost a lot of opportunities. We will do better
next time. I don’t see this happening to us again.”
This marked the first regular-season meeting between the rivals
since 2006 – and it was played exactly 21 years after the Bay Area
earthquake hit when these teams played at Candlestick Park in
This one wasn’t anything special – a matchup of teams that each
have gone seven straight seasons without a winning record. Oakland
has failed in seven tries the past two years when trying for
”It’s not like we get overconfident,” cornerback Nnamdi
Asomugha said. ”It’s just something we have to do. We just have to
win that second game.”
After the first drive of the second half, San Francisco had 123
yards in penalties and 137 yards of offense.
Crabtree said during the week he wanted to have a big game
against the team that picked Darrius Heyward-Bey instead of him at
No. 7 in last year’s draft. Crabtree, picked three spots later at
10th, had four catches for 57 yards to Heyward-Bey’s three for
Smith faced boobirds for the second straight Sunday at home.
This time, they started at the 10:18 mark of the second quarter.
It’s been a rough go for Smith, who committed seven turnovers in
the 49ers’ three narrow losses – by eight combined points against
New Orleans, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
”We’ve had three really close games this year. A lot of these
hurt. Today to go out and play how we did, staring 0-5 in the face,
we stayed patient,” Smith said.
Coach Mike Singletary nearly benched him last week after a
heated conversation on the sideline but Smith talked him out of it.
The QB then led two late touchdown drives before throwing a pick on
San Francisco’s final possession in a 27-24 loss to the
On Sunday, Smith was just 2 for 11 before completing a pass to
Josh Morgan late in the first half. Joe Nedney then kicked a
25-yard field goal 8 seconds before halftime.
Linebacker Manny Lawson made an athletic, diving catch in front
of Miller to get the Niners the ball back early in the second, but
they couldn’t capitalize.
San Francisco avoided becoming the NFL’s only 0-6 team. Buffalo
and Carolina are 0-5 but were idle Sunday.
”It was desperation. We needed this,” said linebacker Takeo
Spikes, who had a late interception. ”But we aren’t satisfied.
This is a stepping stone, and there’s no turning back from
The 49ers were the popular pick to win the NFC West before the
season began. This franchise thought for sure it would end a
seven-year playoff drought – though that will be a tough task. The
three other divisional teams all have three victories. San
Francisco goes to Carolina next week before flying to London to
face the Denver Broncos on Oct. 31.
Niners team president Jed York said after the last-second loss
to the Eagles that his club would still win the West and make the
”It gives them energy and motivation,” Singletary said. ”Just
the perseverance, our guys being able to hang together and stay
together in spite of all the other stuff that’s going on, I think
Notes: Before Crabtree’s TD, the 49ers were the only team
without a touchdown longer than 20 yards. … Gore moved into third
place on the franchise’s all-time rushing list with 6,032 yards. He
trails Joe Perry and Roger Craig. … The teams combined for 243
yards of offense in the first half.