49ers' Smith thriving under pressure
Alex Smith is doing his best to overcome the stigma of being tagged an anxious quarterback. His teammates are noticing the difference.
49ers tight end Vernon Davis said Friday that Smith has grown more confident over the last few years. San Francisco first-year coach Jim Harbaugh has been impressed all season.
''Alex is a strong-minded individual,'' Davis said. ''He's struggled in the past but he's headed for success. He's taking advantage of his opportunities. He knows there's a possibility he'll get hit from all sides and he still wants to make the play.''
Smith has helped the 49ers score in each of their 12 trips inside the red zone (six field goals, six touchdowns). They are one of three NFC teams with a perfect mark this season.
He's also coming off a strong game against the Philadelphia Eagles, during which he led three scoring drives in the second half to produce a come-from-behind victory.
''He has the ability to stay loose and focused at the same time,'' Harbaugh said. ''He plays with a calm demeanor.''
He'll be looking to continue that streak when the 49ers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
''He studies the game plan and the opponents' structure,'' Harbaugh said. ''He's smart, talented and doesn't rattle easily. He makes good quality decisions.''
Smith ranks in the middle of the pack among NFL quarterbacks and the 49ers rank toward the bottom in almost every offensive category. But the 49ers have won three of their first four games, a pleasant surprise after starting slow the last two years.
''It's about getting into rhythm and staying together as one,'' Davis said. ''What I saw last week I had never seen before. I saw that this team has what it takes to go all the way.''
NOTES: DT Isaac Sopoaga remains questionable for Sunday's game. ... CB Shawntee Spencer also is listed as questionable. ... FB Bruce Miller continues to gain extra work at his new position. The rookie was a defensive end at Central Florida. ... Harbaugh said CBs Chris Culliver and Donte Whitner and DT Ricky Jean Francois will see their roles expanded this week.