What are the San Francisco 49ers missing?
So far, absolutely nothing – except a loss.
Two games into the NFL season, the 2-0 Niners actually look more formidable than they did last season.
For openers they knocked off the Packers at Lambeau Field last week in the season opener.
Then, in a nationally televised Sunday night game against the Detroit Lions, the 49ers won easily, 27-19, while showing a dangerous passing game, strong running attack and a defense that held the Matthew Stafford-led Detroit offense to four field goals and a fourth-quarter touchdown with 1:29 remaining in the game.
For the second straight week, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was outstanding from the outset.
On the Niners’ first drive, after the Lions’ first series ended with a punt, Smith guided San Francisco on a four-play, 67-yard drive that included a Mario Manningham end-around for 29, a 17-yard completion to Michael Crabtree and ended with a 21-yard TD strike to tight end Vernon Davis, good for a 7-0 lead.
Later, Smith hit Davis for another score in the fourth quarter, a 23-yard pass to put San Francisco up 27-12 after the Lions had closed to within eight points.
On the night, Smith completed 20-of-31 throws (with several drops) for 226 yards, two TDs and no interceptions.
Over two games now, Smith has been highly efficient, completing 40-of-57 throws for 437 yards and four TDs without a pick. And, once again Sunday night, Smith spread the wealth, completing six passes to Crabtree, five to Davis and nine to a combined four other receivers.
As ESPN tweeted after the game, “Are you an Alex Smith believer?”
The so-called “game manager” of 2011 now appears to have stepped into the conversation as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, with a firm grasp of the team’s offense and several new receivers.
In addition, Smith is playing almost mistake-free. He’s now thrown 216 consecutive passes without an interception, extending the franchise record he set last week.
As Lions coach Jim Schwartz said this past week, “You’ve got to have a really smart quarterback to do it (six straight regular-season games without a turnover), and Alex Smith is definitely a smart quarterback.”
Though San Francisco’s turnover-less streak ended with a lost fumble by Kendall Hunter, the Niners again were solid.
The Niners rushed for 148 yards, with Frank Gore (17 carries for 89 yards) leading the way, and the S.F. defense held the Lions to 89 yards on the ground and 296 yards in total offense.
And, though Lions star wide receiver Calvin Johnson said this game was “circled” on his schedule – Detroit wanted this win after losing to the 49ers last year in Michigan – Johnson for the second straight year was kept out of the end zone despite eight catches.
Next up for the 49ers is yet another NFC North team, the Vikings in Minnesota this coming Sunday.