Smith almost perfect, 49ers flatten Arizona 24-3

So much for Alex Smith and his lost confidence.

”It was in my closet,” he said. ”I found it.”

Indeed.

Smith was almost perfect in San Francisco’s 24-3 victory over

the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night. But for a dropped pass, he

would have been.

The 49ers quarterback completed 18 of 19 passes for 232 yards

and three touchdowns after a week that saw some speculation that

Smith’s belief in himself was shaken following a pair of poor

outings.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said questions about Smith’s confidence came

from ”a couple of reporters,” nothing more.

”I don’t think there ever was a question there,” Harbaugh

said. ”I think it was just a lot of gobble, gobble, turkey. Just

gobble, gobble, gobble turkey. That paints a pretty good picture.

He’s a very confident guy.”

Smith threw two touchdown passes to Michael Crabtree and one to

Randy Moss.

”Eighteen of 19, I have never seen that,” Harbaugh said. ”How

important for your quarterback to play very well? It is very

important and I don’t know how you play much better. It was a

fantastic game by him.

It was a performance that caught the Cardinals by surprise.

”Everyone’s surprised. My 5-year-old son’s surprised,”

defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said, ”but at the end of the day

it wasn’t like he had to make the long perfect throws. He had some

guys open and we missed some tackles and they made plays.”

Smith said he had no idea his stats were that good.

”Which is a good thing,” he said. ”I don’t want to think

about my stats or incompletions or anything like that. I was kind

of in a good rhythm, the whole offense was. ”`

The dominant victory opened a two-game lead for San Francisco

(6-2) in the NFC West. Arizona (4-4) lost its fourth straight after

a 4-0 start.

The Cardinals managed only a field goal against the No. 1

defense in the NFL.

”They’re a good defense, don’t get me wrong,” Arizona

quarterback John Skelton said. ”They are a very talented defense.

But to only put up three points, that’s embarrassing, as an offense

and as a team. It’s in front of a national audience and we put up

only three points and lost by 21. It’s frustrating and it’s

humiliating.”

Smith was 14 of 15 for 146 yards and two touchdowns, both to

Crabtree, as the 49ers built a 17-0 halftime lead.

Moss caught a 47-yard TD pass, juking tacklers down the sideline

on a play that seemed to turn back the clock to the receiver’s

prime. With the catch, he tied Terrell Owens for fourth on the NFL

career touchdown list with 156.

Smith, who tied a career high with the three touchdown passes,

spread his completions among 10 receivers. Crabtree led the way

with five catches for 72 yards.

Arizona’s defense, supposedly the team’s strength, missed tackle

after tackle in an embarrassing nationally televised performance at

home. The 24 points were the most allowed by the Cardinals this

season.

”This was a big test for us, and everyone saw how it went,”

Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ”It was disappointing to say

the least.”

Led by Smith’s pinpoint passing, the 49ers methodically

dominated from the start. He had the best completion percentage of

his career, and he would have been perfect had Delanie Walker not

dropped the ball when he was wide open on a crossing route in the

first half.

The Cardinals, down 17-0, were booed off the field by the home

crowd at the half.

Things didn’t get any better for the home team in the third

quarter. On third-and-9, Smith threw 30 yards to Crabtree, who

evaded a host of tacklers. Then on third-and-8, Smith tossed a

short pass to Moss, who sidestepped a series of would-be defenders

all the way to the end zone, putting San Francisco ahead 24-0 with

7:27 left in the third quarter.

The Cardinals averted a shutout with Jay Feely’s 28-yard field

goal

Skelton, making his second start since Kevin Kolb went down with

rib injuries, completed 32 of 52 passes for 290 yards, often

overthrowing receivers. The Cardinals rushed for just 7 yards in

nine attempts against the 49ers, who entered the game as the No.

1-ranked defense in the NFL, No. 2 against the run.

Arizona’s final possession ended when Larry Fitzgerald was

stopped at the 1.

NOTES: The roof was open at University of Phoenix Stadium, a

rarity for Cardinals games. … San Francisco C Daniel Kilgore left

the game in the first quarter with a concussion. … Daryl

Washington had two sacks, giving him eight for the season. … In

its two nationally televised night appearances this season, against

St. Louis on a Thursday and San Francisco on Monday, Arizona was

outscored 41-6. … The 49ers improved to 3-1 on the road, winning

their last two away from home by a combined 55-3. … Only Jerry

Rice (208), Emmitt Smith (175) and LaDainian Tomlinson (162) have

more touchdowns than Moss. … The 49ers’ Justin Smith had two

sacks. … The 49ers have a bye this week. The Cardinals are at

Green Bay on Sunday.

Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx