Where the 0-2 Niners go from here is really on the shoulders of Alex Smith. The Niners QB has had a very up-and-down opening to this 2010 season, looking downright horrible at times vs. Seattle on kickoff weekend, then taking about 2 full quarters to finally get into a rhythm vs. the Saints on Monday night. They obviously have the defense, and will bring a strong running game each Sunday, but they need Alex Smith to be consistent in order for this team to really flourish.
It really showed on Monday night how good the Niners can be when Smith is focused. That last drive, late in the 4th quarter in which the Niners tied the game looked like vintage Joe Montana and Steve Young. Smith was making quick decisions, making right decisions, and really was the leader of the offense on that drive. Smith took Niners 82 yards on just 8 plays after the 2-minute warning. With the Niners down 8 at the time, they had to be perfect on the drive, score a TD, then cap it off with a 2-point conversion, and they did just that. After Frank Gore trotted in from 7 yards out, Smith connected with his most trustworthy target in Vernon Davis for the conversion. Only problem was, the Niners left Drew Brees and the Saints offense just a tad too much time. In a drive nearly identical to the one in which Brett Favre and the Vikings beat the Niners with early in the '09 season, Brees made a few incredible passes, coupled with a tremendous grab by Marques Colston, and once again, the Niners lost the game in the final seconds.
So yes, the 49ers are now 0-2, but I really am not ready to start panicking. The defense is looking every bit as solid as it was hyped up to be coming into the season. Also, after being pretty much bottled up in week 1, Frank Gore got himself going with 112 rush yards, 56 receiving yards and 2 scores. The young offensive line looked pretty solid vs. the Saints too, and I think they're going to come around nicely. Basically, it's up to Alex Smith to hold his end of the bargain, and outside of that second half vs. the Saints Monday night, he has yet to do that this year. What he did do in that Saints game though, was give fans hope that he's on the right track and will only move forward from here. Frank Gore was great, but Smith orchestrated the Niners to their highest offense output in nearly 100 games (413 yfs). I know every media outlet in the Bay Area is saying the same thing about Smith, so I'm not going to sit here and beat a dead horse. All I want to say is that it's time for Smith to eliminate any question there is about him as the 49ers starting quarterback, cause if Smith doesn't claim this job, it could be a few more years before the 49ers have a legit NFL QB under center.
Gradkowski Takes Over: Coach Cable and the 1-1 Raiders have announced that Bruce Gradkowski, who led the Raiders to a 16-14 victory over the Rams last week, will be the teams starting quarterback for the immediate future, taking over for Jason Campbell. I'm somewhat surprised Cable's making the move this early, but I do like the decisiveness. The team obviously rally's around Gradkowski and plays hard for him, and he's done a very good job in jump starting their lackluster offense every time he gets into games. I don't think we've seen the last of Campbell behind center for Oakland, but I do think Cable is going to give Gradkowski a few weeks to to see what he can come up with.