Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cardinals Show Alex Smith No Respect

As I watched the coaches film of the 49ers 24-3 victory there was one thing that stood out to me.  The Cardinals who are a 3-4 defense went to extreme measures to stop the 49ers rushing attack, daring Alex Smith to beat them, and beat them is precisely what Smith and the 49ers offense did.

The 49ers came out early utilizing their 22 personnel, 2 Tight Ends and 2 Running Backs.  The Cardinals responded by bringing in an additional defensive lineman and removing a cornerback and playing a 4-4-3 defense in with safety Adrian Wilson playing an outside technique over Vernon Davis.

The 49ers went with this personnel on 13 of their 30 plays in the first half, and the first possession of the 2nd half on their way to building a 24-0 lead.  It was out of this personnel grouping that Alex Smith had some of his biggest completions, including a 11 yard gain to Frank Gore and a 23 yard gain to Delanie Walker during the 49ers first touchdown drive.

The beat would continue in the 2nd quarter on their second touchdown drive as Smith connected again with Delanie Walker on a 15 yard completion along the right sideline, and then with Vernon Davis for a 25 yard strike down the middle.

These big pass plays were set up by the 49ers ability to penetrate the Cardinals 4-4 defense with strong running by Gore early in the game.  This early success allowed Greg Roman to call play action passes, at which Smith excels.  As noted NFL Films guru Greg Cosell stated on KNBR on Thursday about Smith, "For the most part, he's a plant-and-throw quarterback - the throw must be defined quickly and the ball has to come out."  This is precisely what play action passes call for.  The reads have to be quick, and easily defined since the QB will have his back turned to the defense through the play fake.

In addition to the play action pass, Roman called a number of 3 step routes, which allowed Smith to read the CB depth pre-snap to determine where he was going to go with the ball.  On two occasions Smith saw that the corner playing over Mario Manningham was further off, and he hit Manningham on quick outs for gains of 10 and 7 yards, both times resulting in first downs, and setting up the offense to bring in their 22 personnel.


  1. I can't argue with Alex on play action. He excels at those passes. He's also good against the blitz. I guess a blitz offers the same quickly identified throw as a play action play.

    1. It does msc. Against a blitz it is a bang-bang read, and plays perfectly to his strengths.