The 49ers didn’t get a win in Houston on Sunday, but they may have found their new quarterback in a familiar face.
It appears that the stagnant play of Shaun Hill is finally over, as former first overall pick Alex Smith started the second half of the Niners’ 24-21 loss to the Texans in Week 7. Hill was just 6-of-11 passing for 45 yards in the first half and a very Shaun Hill-like 6.1 YPA. Smith came in and immediately sparked San Fran’s offense, marching them down the field and capping the drive off with a 29-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis. Smith then found Davis twice in the fourth quarter, including on a 23-yard score that cut the Texans’ lead down to 24-21 with less four minutes remaining.
The 49ers want to be a team that dominates opponents on the ground, which is fine. But with Hill, they couldn’t move the ball vertically through the air and teams like the Falcons and Texans took advantage of that the past three weeks. At some point, Mike Singletary and Jimmy Raye had to realize that their offensive approach wasn’t going to work as long as Hill was under center.
Smith might not have won the starting job in preseason, but he took it today. Will he be the key to getting the Niners to the playoffs? Maybe not, but at least he can complete passes further than 6.1 yards. It’s also nice to see that he developed a great connection with Davis, another one of San Fran’s former top 10 picks.
For the Texans, this was a nice win because they haven’t been very consistent this season. They’ve now won back-to-back games for the first time this year and their defense is starting to play better. Matt Schaub (20 for 30, 264 yards, 2 TDs) was excellent once again and tight end Owen Daniels (7 receptions, 123 yards, 1 TD) was damn near unstoppable today.
If Houston can continue to play well defensively, the Texans will make a playoff push in the second half.