Alex Smith leading 49ers season to remember

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith warms up before the start of an NFL football game between the St. Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

January 4, 2012 7:13:59 PM PST
Quarterback Alex Smith has dealt with more negative criticism than perhaps any player in 49er history, but Smith has shrugged it all off and is taking the Niners to the playoffs for the 1st time since 2002.

Smith has finally lived up to his number one draft status. He's had a career year throwing for over 3,100 yards with only five interceptions, which ties a league record. The team has had only 10 turnovers all season, also an NFL record.

"He's been mentally tough. He's been physically tough the entire year," said head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Smith has completed 61 percent of his passes, thrown for 17 touchdowns, and has a 90.7 quarterback rating. Despite being sacked 44 times, he started all 16 games for the second time in his career.

"Any time a quarterback can play all 16 games for you, start and play every down pretty much the entire season, that's a man-size job. That is hard to do," Harbaugh said.

He's done it without a consistent receiving corp. Injuries have altered this part of the lineup all season, but as of late, Michael Crabtree has been the man. He's had a career season with 73 catches, 880 yards, and four touchdowns.

"His play just keeps getting better and better. He's making the great catch and turning short catches into yards after the catch. I feel like Michael's having more fun too," Harbaugh said.

It's been fun to watch both players get to use their entire skill set and hopefully this level of play will continue in the playoffs.