Survival mode: Saints hammer Alex Smith

So much for emphasizing player safety.

Alex Smith, making his first exhibition start under a labor agreement featuring added protections for players, took a brutal pounding Friday night.

The New Orleans Saints hit him hard on each of the 49ers’ first three offensive possessions. Defensive end Will Smith drilled Smith twice. Safety Roman Harper tagged him on a blitz.

There wasn’t much the 49ers could do to combat the pressure packages New Orleans sent at the 49ers early in the game. Smith has been practicing in the 49ers’ new offense since only Aug. 4. The 49ers are installing a new offense. They're worried more about lining up right and executing center exchanges cleanly than game-planning for blitzes.

The Saints, meanwhile, benefit from a superior roster and excellent overall continuity. Their defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, loves to punish quarterbacks.

This was a bad combination for the 49ers. No wonder they've asked Colin Kaepernick to hand off so frequently since Kaepernick replaced Smith a few minutes ago. The Saints lead, 10-0, early in the second quarter.