There's been a lot of talk lately about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith and his ability - or inability - to win a football game with his arm alone. Commentaries and articles have gone up in the last week points to "40 throws", for one reason or another. "Can Alex Smith win a game throwing the ball 40 times?" is the question that's been asked, and when it comes to Sunday's game against the New York Giants, the answer is simple.
It doesn't matter.
Unless Jim Harbaugh is out to make some kind of statement (and why do it at this point? A statement was made when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were beaten rather soundly and, more negatively, wide receiver Josh Morgan went to injured reserve while the 49ers tried to pile on more points), the 49ers would be best served with a "business as usual" strategy when they play host to the NFC East-leading Giants.
"Business as usual," meaning running back Frank Gore, and his sights being set on a sixth-straight game of 100 yards rushing. There's this perception of the Giants being this hard-nosed team that is going to make the 49ers uncomfortable and force them out of their gameplan, which is certainly a possibility. But their gameplan is going to be to run the ball, and the Giants have had a somewhat abysmal run defense this season, allowing over 100 yards a game on the ground (127.1).
Oh sure, they just stopped the latest running back to go against them, but that was the New England Patriots and [insert Patriots running back name here]. Do you really think that being hard-nosed and stalwart against [insert Patriots running back name here] is something to hang your hat on? Bravo for stopping the players put in front of you, but Gore and, to a lesser extent rookie Kendall Hunter, is a much different beast. Gore should be every bit as confident heading into this Sunday against the Giants as he has been since getting the running game going six weeks ago.
So what if Alex Smith has to throw the ball 40 times? Chances are, San Francisco will be able to get some yardage against New York's middle-of-the-pack pass defense, considering the fact that they were able to move the ball against better pass defenses this year. But 40 times is an awful lot, and we haven't seen Smith do that this season. However - he hasn't had to, and the 49ers have faced tougher rushing defense than this, so he probably won't have to again.
There's one thing you can hang your hat on - Harbaugh and Greg Roman aren't stupid. Smith has likely been prepared in every game this season to throw for 40+ passes if need be. But the trend of him not having to is likely to continue on Sunday, come rain or shine.