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Smith almost perfect, 49ers flatten Arizona 24-3

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Smith almost perfect, 49ers flatten Arizona 24-3

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) So much for Alex Smith and his lost confidence.

``It was in my closet,'' he said. ``I found it.''

Indeed.

Smith was almost perfect in San Francisco's 24-3 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night. But for a dropped pass, he would have been.

The 49ers quarterback completed 18 of 19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns after a week that saw some speculation that Smith's belief in himself was shaken following a pair of poor outings.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said questions about Smith's confidence came from ``a couple of reporters,'' nothing more.

``I don't think there ever was a question there,'' Harbaugh said. ``I think it was just a lot of gobble, gobble, turkey. Just gobble, gobble, gobble turkey. That paints a pretty good picture. He's a very confident guy.''

Smith threw two touchdown passes to Michael Crabtree and one to Randy Moss.

``Eighteen of 19, I have never seen that,'' Harbaugh said. ``How important for your quarterback to play very well? It is very important and I don't know how you play much better. It was a fantastic game by him.

It was a performance that caught the Cardinals by surprise.

``Everyone's surprised. My 5-year-old son's surprised,'' defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said, ``but at the end of the day it wasn't like he had to make the long perfect throws. He had some guys open and we missed some tackles and they made plays.''

Smith said he had no idea his stats were that good.

``Which is a good thing,'' he said. ``I don't want to think about my stats or incompletions or anything like that. I was kind of in a good rhythm, the whole offense was. ```

The dominant victory opened a two-game lead for San Francisco (6-2) in the NFC West. Arizona (4-4) lost its fourth straight after a 4-0 start.

The Cardinals managed only a field goal against the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

``They're a good defense, don't get me wrong,'' Arizona quarterback John Skelton said. ``They are a very talented defense. But to only put up three points, that's embarrassing, as an offense and as a team. It's in front of a national audience and we put up only three points and lost by 21. It's frustrating and it's humiliating.''

Smith was 14 of 15 for 146 yards and two touchdowns, both to Crabtree, as the 49ers built a 17-0 halftime lead.

Moss caught a 47-yard TD pass, juking tacklers down the sideline on a play that seemed to turn back the clock to the receiver's prime. With the catch, he tied Terrell Owens for fourth on the NFL career touchdown list with 156.

Smith, who tied a career high with the three touchdown passes, spread his completions among 10 receivers. Crabtree led the way with five catches for 72 yards.

Arizona's defense, supposedly the team's strength, missed tackle after tackle in an embarrassing nationally televised performance at home. The 24 points were the most allowed by the Cardinals this season.

``This was a big test for us, and everyone saw how it went,'' Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ``It was disappointing to say the least.''

Led by Smith's pinpoint passing, the 49ers methodically dominated from the start. He had the best completion percentage of his career, and he would have been perfect had Delanie Walker not dropped the ball when he was wide open on a crossing route in the first half.

The Cardinals, down 17-0, were booed off the field by the home crowd at the half.

Things didn't get any better for the home team in the third quarter. On third-and-9, Smith threw 30 yards to Crabtree, who evaded a host of tacklers. Then on third-and-8, Smith tossed a short pass to Moss, who sidestepped a series of would-be defenders all the way to the end zone, putting San Francisco ahead 24-0 with 7:27 left in the third quarter.

The Cardinals averted a shutout with Jay Feely's 28-yard field goal

Skelton, making his second start since Kevin Kolb went down with rib injuries, completed 32 of 52 passes for 290 yards, often overthrowing receivers. The Cardinals rushed for just 7 yards in nine attempts against the 49ers, who entered the game as the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL, No. 2 against the run.

Arizona's final possession ended when Larry Fitzgerald was stopped at the 1.

NOTES: The roof was open at University of Phoenix Stadium, a rarity for Cardinals games. ... San Francisco C Daniel Kilgore left the game in the first quarter with a concussion. ... Daryl Washington had two sacks, giving him eight for the season. ... In its two nationally televised night appearances this season, against St. Louis on a Thursday and San Francisco on Monday, Arizona was outscored 41-6. ... The 49ers improved to 3-1 on the road, winning their last two away from home by a combined 55-3. ... Only Jerry Rice (208), Emmitt Smith (175) and LaDainian Tomlinson (162) have more touchdowns than Moss. ... The 49ers' Justin Smith had two sacks. ... The 49ers have a bye this week. The Cardinals are at Green Bay on Sunday.

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Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx

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Marcin Gortat's emotional return ends with a loss and personal vindication

Marcin Gortat's emotional return ends with a loss and personal vindication

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The “Polish Machine” who now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t quite land the Hollywood movie script ending in his return to Washington.

Don’t fret for Marcin Gortat. Sure, the Wizards, his former team, fought back from a 24-point deficit for a 125-118 win. He’s good with his new scene. Gortat also has thoughts on his former situation and the turmoil brewing.

Gortat made his first appearance in the arena he called home for five seasons Tuesday night since a June 26 trade sent him to Los Angeles for Austin Rivers. He wasn’t sure of how the local fans would react. His journey in Washington ended bumpily, but the overall ride coincided with a positive turn for the franchise. The Wizards reached the playoffs in four of his five seasons.

“Well, obviously a very emotional moment,” Gortat said of his return. “Bottom line is that we came here to get a win. Unfortunately, we lost today. …It was great to be here.”

His arrival in 2013 following a trade with Phoenix led to the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2008. Three more postseason trips followed as did Mohawks and fabulous quotes. Gortat provided the power just before the NBA veered away from hulking frontcourts. His fame and fortune increased in Washington. His affable and oversized personality attracted fans.

Fans that watched the 6-foot-11 screen-setting center consistently provide double-doubles graciously applauded for the ex-Wizard during pre-game introductions. Gortat, who started 400 of 402 games played in Washington, appreciated the gesture.

“It was weird to sit on that side of the court and play against your guys,” Gortat said. “It was tough, very emotional and weird, but it’s business.”

Gortat wasn’t immune to criticism from fans and teammates during his time in Washington. Part of the reason he now plays for the Clippers is that the relationship with former pick-and-roll partner John Wall soured. When disapproval only went so far up the Wizards’ player hierarchy, it often stopped with the man in the middle.

The Wizards entered Tuesday’s game flailing. Many of the same players from prior seasons remained. Not Gortat, meaning any blame must land elsewhere. With drama engulfing the Wizards, Gortat proudly felt vindicated. He waited for the pack of reporters to clear before expressing such thoughts.

“Listen, the way I was traded out of that team, it looked like I was the cancer of the locker room,” Gortat told NBC Sports Washington. “I think that thing was verified and it was complete [expletive]. It is what it is now.”

Pregame Gortat wondered if the Wizards would join the ranks of teams creating tribute videos for returning players. He would be left wanting.

Rivers, the son of the Clippers head coach, received one in October upon his first arrival back with the team he played for over four seasons. Gortat remembered.

As the formal postgame scrum ended, the ex-Wizard made it clear he had thoughts to share and asked to be asked about the lack of a video tribute.

“Well, what do I think about that? A lot of guys around the league are getting tributes. It ’s obviously up to the organization, but I guess Austin Rivers did enough to get his tribute, but I didn’t do enough to get a tribute here,” Gortat said to NBC Sports Washington. “A few guys around the team understand. It was kind of weird.”

Taking the court with his former teammates was more different than weird, but ultimately cordial and competitive.

“Brad (Beal) fouled me a few times. He admitted he fouled me, but I didn’t get a call,” a chuckling Gortat told NBC Sports Washington. “John, yeah, we had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, there’s no bad blood. We spoke at the end of the game, said good luck, stay healthy.”

Ultimately, Gortat made peace with his time in Washington. The fond memories outweighed the knocks. Members of the Wizards organization stopped by the Clippers locker room for a chat and a laugh. Gortat bear hugged Wizards equipment manager Jerry Walter to the ground.

The loss stung. Los Angeles does the stinging most nights. The Clippers entered with a five-game winning streak. Their 11-6 record puts them among the Western Conference elite. Gortat’s minutes are down (18 per game). Such limits would have bothered him in Washington. 

At 34 and knowing his NBA life could be fleeting with his contract expiring this summer, Gortat is cool with his new world.

“I’m great. I’m great where I am,” the 12-year veteran said. “I get to play and help the team as much as I can either on the court, off the court, in the locker room. I’m going to try to help my team and lead us as much as I can. We have great chemistry and a great team.”

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Former Raven Ed Reed takes step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement

Former Raven Ed Reed takes step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement

To the surprise of no one, former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed is one step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Tuesday that Reed was named one of the 25 semifinalist for the 2019 class. Reed, cornerback Champ Bailey and tight end Tony Gonzalez are the only first-year eligible players that made the cut.

An obvious first-year ballot Hall of Famer, the next step in the selection process for Reed will take place on Thursday, January 3 when the semifinalist are cut down to 15 Modern-Era Finalist.

Finalist then must receive 80% positive vote from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee on "Selection Saturday," one day prior to Super Bowl LIII. No more than five Modern-Era Finalist can be elected in a given year. The finalist will be formally enshrined Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Canton, Ohio.

The Ravens selected Reed in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft, and he would go on to play 11 seasons with the organization. During those 11 seasons, he was voted to the Pro Bowl nine times, was a five-time First-Team All-Pro and started 159 of 160 games. 

On the field, Reed had 61 interceptions for 1,541 yards and seven touchdowns. In addition, the safety raked up 11 forced fumbles and 13 fumbles recovered for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Not to forget a Super Bowl XLVII championship.

Reed's enshrinement would make him the third Raven in the history of the organization to be enshrined in his first-year of eligibility alongside linebacker Ray Lewis and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. 

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