SAN FRANCISCO -- Alex Smith's passer rating continues to hover a shade below 100. And for the first time in his NFL career, he is the quarterback of a winning team.Even with a 6-1 record and a 95.6 rating that places him near the top of the NFL, the 49ers' passing game isn't exactly a sight to behold.On Sunday, Smith completed 15 of 24 passes for 177 and a touchdown in the 49ers' 20-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns."It was a hard-fought battle," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "They all are in this league. Not perfect, but beautiful."Smith continued to play with efficiency without being the least-bit flashy. He has thrown just two interceptions in seven games. But he has averaged 181 yards passing through the first seven games of the season."When you play quarterback, you're just trying to win games," Smith said. "That's all I care about. I don't care about style points, how I'm doing it, as long as we're winning."Frank Gore rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 31 rushing attempts. The 49ers rushed for 174 yards. Smith got into the act with some designed runs, as he gained 22 yards on five carries. And Smith threw for 174 net yards, too."This was a team that was second against the pass in the NFL and 19th against the run," Smith said. "And we aren't going to be cookie cutter. You're going to try to play to your strengths and where we match up against them."We felt like we had some good matchups in the run game, and I think we really exploited them in the first half."Gore, who climbed into second place on the 49ers' all-time rushing list, gained for 103 yards in the first half. But the 49ers' offense stalled in the second half.The 49ers managed just one first down in their first five possessions after halftime. Finally, they strung together three first downs to put the game out of reach on David Akers' field goal in the closing minutes.Receiver Braylon Edwards gave the 49ers another piece to the passing game, as he returned to action after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, which he sustained Sept. 18 against the Dallas Cowboys.Edwards caught four passes for 42 yards, while Michael Crabtree had five receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown."You've got to get the ground game going to get the pass game going and vice versa," Edwards said. "When you've got a running back that's running for 100 yards a game and the offensive line is just tremendous up front in giving him room, it really opens up the pass game and allows us to do the things we did. And now you get us doing what we can do, it opens up the running game."
SANTA CLARA – While rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard is taking a micro view of his promotion, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is not shy about admitting he is looking at the big picture.
Shanahan said how Beathard performs after replacing Brian Hoyer as starting quarterback will have “a ton” of influence on how the 49ers proceed during the offseason.
After all, the 49ers know every position will come under tremendous scrutiny as the organization looks to add the pieces that will make the club competitive.
“That’s for every position. That’s for every player on our team. That’s for every coach on our team,” Shanahan said. “We’re 0-6, and that’s extremely tough. But I’m extremely excited about this place and excited about where we’re at and where we’re going. There’s not a moment that I don’t waste thinking about that stuff.”
Beathard will make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium.
Hoyer failed in his bid to earn consideration as the 49ers’ quarterback for the remainder of this season and beyond during his six starts. Hoyer completed just 58 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 74.1.
Now, Beathard gets his chance. But he said he is not thinking about the big picture and what it might mean for the future.
“I’m really just trying to take it one day, one week at a time,” Beathard said. “I’m not looking that far ahead. Right now, my focus is on today’s practice and geared towards beating the Cowboys and doing the best we can to get better and improve.”
Beathard was pressed into action last week when Hoyer’s struggles continued at Washngton. Beathard stepped in and completed 19 of 36 passes for 245 yards with a touchdown and an interception. For the first time, Beathard is getting the first-team practice snaps with a game plan that is designed specifically for him.
Said Beathard, “Getting those extra reps, reps with guys that you don’t usually throw to, in the huddle with the guys that are out there, I think it’ll help a lot.”
More than 35 players from the 49ers’ first Super Bowl champion will be in attendance on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium to show support for Dwight Clark, who revealed in March he was diagnosed with ALS.
Clark, 60, will have ample opportunity to reconnect with some of his old friends on Saturday evening and again on Sunday. At halftime, Joe Montana, surrounded by most of the 49ers' 1981 team, will introduce Clark before a video tribute.
Clark is also expected to make some remarks while situated in a suite for the 49ers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Montana and his wife, Jennifer, have remained in close contact with Clark and his wife, Kelly. The Clarks recently watched the Blue Angels in San Francisco with the Montanas during Fleet Week.
“He’s getting pretty inundated with everyone staying in touch with him at this point,” Montana said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.
“It’s fun for him. At one point, he was telling his wife, Kelly, ‘This is what it’s all about. This is what I want and what I miss, seeing the guys.’ So any of the guys reaching out to him, he surely appreciates it.”
Montana said Clark has not lost his positive outlook or his sense of humor, as evidenced by some not-fit-for-print words he recently had about his wheelchair. Montana said there are always some good laughs and stories any time Clark gets together with his friends.
“That’s the fun part," Montana said. “You just try to get him to forget what’s there, and that you’re there for him whenever. I think the support is the biggest thing right now. In that stage of ALS, it's got to be getting tough, where all of a sudden, things are becoming more and more difficult.”