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Alex Smith is feeling comfortable in the offense of coach Jim Harbaugh (left). (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Yes, the 49ers had put together back-to-back comeback wins on the road.
Yes, the team was 3-1 and looking as if it were starting to gain momentum under first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh.
And yes, almost everyone on the team who’s been around for a bit is saying this season somehow feels “different.”
Yet Smith urged caution.
“If you start feeling really good about yourself, it would be crazy,” Smith told the Oakland Tribune Saturday. “It’s still very early. We have to get better, absolutely.”
Get better? Feel good?
There was plenty of both Sunday at Candlestick Park, as the 49ers overwhelmed a division-leading Bucs team that had been 3-1, outscoring Tampa Bay 48-3.
San Francisco was dominant on both sides of the ball to move to 4-1 this season and set up quite a clash next Sunday in Michigan against the Lions, who are 4-0 going into their Monday night game against the Bears.
Suddenly, the 49ers are one of the NFL’s feel-good stories, a team orchestrating a complete turnaround from last season. The latest example was Sunday’s score, a reversal of last year’s 21-0 Tampa Bay victory. The 45-point margin of victory is the 49ers’ largest since 1987.
This one was almost all San Francisco from the beginning.
Carlos Rogers returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter to bump a 7-3 lead into a 14-3 lead, and from there the Niners piled on, scoring 34 unanswered points, enough to allow backup QB Colin Kapernick to see some action at the end.
Smith again was efficient and mistake-free, connecting on 11 of 19 throws for 170 yards, three TDs – all to tight ends – and no interceptions.
Frank Gore rushed for more than 100 yards for the second straight game (125), including a TD.
And the San Francisco defense was again excellent against the run (just 86 yards allowed) and solid overall (just 272 net yards), while picking off Josh Freeman twice, collecting a fumble and getting three sacks.
As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee noted, Smith and the West Coast offense are becoming a sweet marriage. Several times Sunday, Barrows wrote, Smith hit his receivers perfectly, allowing them to make big yards after the catch, a staple of the West Coast system.
Smith’s quarterback rating for the game was 127.2.
Now, the 49ers are 4-1 for the first time since 2002, and have won three in a row (in the same season) for the first time since 2007.
At this rate, Smith’s warning is going to be hard to heed, though Harbaugh is doing his best to send the same message.
“Overconfident, over-prideful – those things can lead to big trouble,” Harbaugh told the Tribune Saturday.