Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
HOUSTON -- Let the Alex Smith era begin anew.
The 49ers had to like what they saw even in defeat Sunday, with Smith coming off the bench to throw three touchdown passes -- all to tight end Vernon Davis -- as the 49ers extracted themselves from a deep halftime hole.
Benching Shaun Hill for Smith at halftime could have played out as a desperate move if Smith hadn't rallied the 49ers. Smith validated the decision by playing better than any 49ers quarterback in recent memory.
Losing to the Texans hurt the 49ers in the standings. They will probably fall to 3-4 after visiting the Colts in Week 9. But the longer-term future appears quite a bit brighter after Smith, Davis, rookie receiver Michael Crabtree and even Josh Morgan -- all 49ers draft choices -- made significant contributions.
Crabtree quickly emerged as the best wide receiver on the team. He was clutch on third down and appeared to play an error-free game in terms of the basics (Morgan was the one flagged for illegal procedure). Davis emerged as a dynamic threat over the deep middle.
If the 49ers were going to lose a game, this wasn't a bad way to lose one. They can feel better about their future.