It wasn't always pretty, and it wasn't always effective, but Troy Smith got it done in Sunday's 23-20 overtime over the St. Louis Rams. Troy drew the start after starter Alex Smith went down with a shoulder injury, after leap-frogging David Carr on the depth chart two weeks ago in London when the 49ers "hosted," the Denver Broncos. Troy played well in that game, minimizing mistakes and making the throws he needed to make. On Sunday against the division leading rivals, he played much better than that, with no big mistakes yet again.
Troy went for 17-of-28 passes for 356 yards and one touchdown against zero interceptions. Not every pass was one ot be admired, as stated, but he showed accuracy on all three levels of the field. When it came to short passes, they hit the receivers where they were supposed to, in contrast to starter Alex Smith, who made it a routine of sorts to put a simple screen pass high over a receiver's head. Every screen went right into Delanie Walker's hands at the exact time it should have, and he did a good job of disguising it. The intermediate routes were where he shined, when he had any time at all in the pocket, it was a workman effort to deliver the ball with almost flawless accuracy. When he was forced out of the pocket, he made great throws on the run. The deep ball was likewise, for the most part it was on point.
He did have two issues that were immediately apparent though, in regards to decision making. Troy's zero interception total may be a little deceiving, there were times he had an intermediate route open but kept his eyes too far down field and went for the deep ball when it wasn't really there, while the intermediate route was almost guaranteed to be a first down. They didn't end up being turnovers at that point, but keep it going and it will happen eventually. Smith's pocket presence also left some to be desired, but he was under pressure for essentially 90% of the offensive snaps. There were times he held onto the ball too long, and times when he appeared to be that ended up working out in his favor.
Either way, Troy's play was good enough to earn him another start when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town this coming Sunday. The Bucs are playing seemingly above their talent level right now, and Troy will need to show a lot of people what he can do when they arrive at Candlestick Park. Coach Mike Singletary named him the starter in a Monday morning press conference following the game against St. Louis.
Citing Troy's play in the past two games, Singletary declared him the starter. Coach Sing had good things to say about his improvisational ability, and then some bad things right after. He made it clear to both Alex and Troy in the locker room directly following the game that Troy would be the starter.
"I think it will be an ongoing thing," Sing said regarding Troy's game and the holes he needs to correct before playing the tough Bucs, "Every quarterback around the league is going to do something that the coach doesn't like, and I think for me, it's just a matter of continuing to work with the coordinator, and he and I - [offensive coordinator] Mike Johnson and myself - understand the things that Troy has to correct going forward. And they're just little, correctable things, and we'll do that."
It will be a week-to-week thing, according to Singletary, which may be the only surprising thing about this move. Some might think Troy's play should give him a pass for the remainder of the season, regardless of one bad performance. It might do well for him to have the coach's full backing, who knows?