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How good is Alex Smith these days?
So good that even Aaron Rodgers is wearing his San Francisco 49ers jersey.
This week, the Packers’ outstanding quarterback will wear Smith’s jersey in public, reportedly because he lost a bet with a member of the group Boyz II Men that sang the national anthem before Sunday’s game in Green Bay, where the 49ers beat the Packers 30-22 to open the 2012 season.
Then again, Smith has become so good – now perhaps even much better than his breakout season of 2011 – that thousands of others will soon be wearing his jersey… without losing bets.
On Sunday in Green Bay, Smith looked completely and totally comfortable and in charge, leading an efficient 49ers offense that built an early lead, and then scored late in the fourth quarter when a touchdown was needed to hold off a Packers rally.
Smith completed 20 of 26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns – while breaking Steve Young’s franchise record for most consecutive passes thrown without an interception. Smith’s mark is now 185, breaking Young’s record by one.
“He was great all game,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group. “Used his legs, used his arm, used his mind, used his toughness.”
For much of last season, Smith was ridiculed by some as being more of a “game manager” than a game-changing quarterback, a guy who handed the ball off, threw safe passes and played not to make mistakes.
Sunday, in his 2012 debut, he looked like a bolder, more in-charge QB with confidence in his teammates, the system and a new fleet of receivers.
Wrote columnist Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “On Sunday, the 49ers’ ‘game manager’ was more of a game warden, controlling the wild beasts on the Green Bay Packers’ defense and the wildly emotional fellows on his team.”
Though the 49ers relied mostly on a strong running game in 2011, the team now appears more balanced. One of the offseason goals of GM Trent Baalke was to improve the 49ers’ receiving corps, and that’s been done with the addition of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and rookie A.J. Jenkins.
On Sunday in Green Bay, the 49ers were a very balanced offense, rushing for 186 yards and passing for 211.
“I hope we’re just continuing to build on what we did last year,” Smith told Pat Borzi of the New York Times after the season-opening win. “I take pride in the fact we’re going to be balanced. I take pride in the fact we’re not going to be predictable, we’re not going to be one-dimensional. We’ve got a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things. We’re going to use them, and we’re going to make you defend everything.”
The transformation of the once-maligned Smith now seems complete. It appears the upward evolution, however, is still ongoing.