When Alex Smith is good, he can be very good. When Smith is very good, the 49ers are practically unbeatable.
While the staples of San Francisco’s success this season remain a rock-solid defense and the NFL’s top-ranked rushing game, Smith’s play at quarterback has been a key variable that’s put the 49ers over the top in a string of lopsided victories.
The first-place 49ers, coming off a bye week, begin the second half of the season Sunday against the St. Louis Rams at 6-2 with a 1½-game lead in the NFC West. The six victories have come by an average margin of 20 points, and Smith has a 120.0 quarterback rating in those games.
The eighth-year veteran knows his strong season to this point will ultimately be judged by what he and the 49ers do the remainder of the year.
Smith says he’s “not really reflecting” on a first half that has established him as one of the league’s top performers so far. Smith ranks fourth among NFL quarterbacks with a passer rating of 102.1.
“You hope you’re playing your best football come November and December,” Smith said. “As you move into the back half of the season, thes
e are huge games, so you hope you’re playing better and better as the season goes on.”
San Francisco has been striving for balance against opponents that key on three-time Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore and the power rushing attack the offense revolves around.
“We present a lot,” said Smith, who has completions to 11 different players this season and also has rushed for 129 yards. “I love getting everybody involved, that’s for sure. I feel like we’re not predictable.”
Smith’s consistency and efficiency also have helped in San Francisco’s climb to 13th in the NFL rankings for total offense this week after finishing 26th in that category last season.