2011 49ers Week 11: Five observations

Five things I noticed while watching the San Francisco 49ers during their 23-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11:

  • Braylon Edwards playing hurt. The receiver underwent knee surgery earlier in the season, but it was the shoulder injury he suffered in Week 9 that seemed to bother him from the start of this game. Edwards kept his left arm tucked against his body following a reception in the first two minutes of the game. His left shoulder was slumped and his arm hung lower as Edwards returned to the huddle. He looked toward the ground and appeared to glance toward the sideline while gathering himself. Edwards dropped a couple of passes. When Edwards decked Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson, the block sent Johnson flying right into Frank Gore's path, allowing Johnson to make the tackle while on the ground. This just wasn't Edwards' day, though other blocks worked out better.

  • Alex Smith showed patience in the pocket. The 49ers' quarterback was nearly eight yards behind the line of scrimmage when he set up in the pocket on an early third-and-10 play. The Cardinals rushed only four. Defensive ends Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett dropped into coverage six yards off the line of scrimmage. Smith held the ball, allowing Michael Crabtree to get deep. He showed patience in stepping forward three or four yards before throwing the pass. Smith moved effectively within the pocket several times.

  • The long and short of it at QB. Smith has been more efficient on long throws and less efficient on short ones over the last two games. It might not mean much, but with Gore working through injuries and Smith coming off a strong game against the Giants, the 49ers might be looking to develop their downfield passing game. That could help them in the playoffs. From Weeks 1-9, Smith completed 7 of 16 passes (43.8 percent) for 227 yards (14.2 per attempt) on throws traveling more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. Since then, Smith has completed 3 of 4 such attempts for 86 yards (21.5 per attempt). His completion percentage on throws traveling no longer than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage has fallen from 69.1 percent over Weeks 1-9 to 55.3 percent over the last two weeks. His touchdown-to-interception ratio on these shorter throws has dropped from 5-0 over the first nine weeks to 2-2 over the last two. Ted Ginn Jr.'s dropped ball against the Giants led to one pick. Smith's obstructed-view interception in the end zone against Arizona came on a scramble -- outside the framework of the offense.

  • Vernon Davis saved a man's life. OK, that's a little dramatic. But Davis' ability to leap over a kneeling cameraman following his touchdown reception was nearly as impressive as the touchdown itself. Davis got a free release off the line and was running near full speed when he caught Smith's pass over his shoulder near the goal line. Once he turned his head around forward, he had about three steps to do something or risk slamming a knee or some other body part into the cameraman. Davis hurdled the man and landed safely on the other side.

  • Aldon Smith stays on his feet. Scouting reports on the 49ers' rookie first-round draft choice took note of Smith's sense of balance. That balance helped Smith collect a sack he had no business collecting against the Cardinals. Smith was too upright as he charged toward Cardinals tackle Levi Brown. Brown shoved Smith at the line. Running back Chester Taylor caught Smith off-guard and rocked him. Smith fell over backward, but his body never hit the ground. He planted his left hand on the ground behind him, pivoted and rose in one motion. Smith then sneaked under Brown to take down quarterback Rich Bartel. Brown tipped his head back after the play, projecting resignation.

I've been heavy on 49ers items lately, in part by design (they're 9-1) and in part because they're playing Thursday night. I'll move up the "you called it" predictions item by a day to beat Thanksgiving. Look for that a bit later Wednesday.