Niners Believe They're in Good Hands With Smith

Teammates, coaches admire quarterback's play-making ability

Running back Frank Gore has a sore left ankle and a sore right knee, but 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters Monday he believes Gore will be able to play Sunday vs. the Arizona Cardinals.

And if he can’t – or if he needs relief – Harbaugh says the Niners are ready for that, too.

“I would plan on (Gore) playing, but you just feel right now, well, we’ve got a stable of backs,” he told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, indicating Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon are on standby. “This bodes well for our football team.”

What also bodes well is the continuing solid performance of quarterback Alex Smith. In Sunday’s victory over the Giants – with Gore injured – it was Smith’s second-half play  that kept San Francisco moving. As Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group reported, Harbaugh said Monday that Harbaugh awarded a game ball to Smith for his “cold-blooded throws,” scrambling ability and passing accuracy.

Though some have discounted Smith’s skills and referred to him as just a “game manager,” Smith shrugs off the term.

“I managed myself into a victory,” he said Sunday after the win, the 8-1 49ers’ seventh straight. “That’s all I care about.”

Harbaugh told reporters Monday that Smith’s performance is more than just his passing, but also his ability to keep plays alive with his scrambling and movement in the pocket. Over the past six games, Smith has been sacked just 10 times.

“He’s shifty,” center Jonathan Goodwin told Inman. “He can run well for a quarterback, so credit to him. Anytime you’re an offensive lineman, you love when a quarterback can make a guy miss.”

This season, Smith has 10 TD passes against just three interceptions, has completed 64 percent of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 95.8 – seventh best in the NFL -- far above his career rating of 75.3.

Goodwin, who signed as a free agent this summer after playing for the Saints, says after playing with Smith this season it’s hard for him to believe the QB has been ineffective in the past.

“I’ve been impressed with Alex,” he told Inman. “It’s hard for me to imagine there is a bad Alex.”

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