49ers get close on furious second-half comeback

The 49ers offense has been the exact opposite of explosive this year -- they may have the worst offensive line in the NFL, and that has translated into an alarming lack of production in every aspect of the game. Only the Raiders have fewer first downs per game, and of their 13 touchdowns through Week 6, four were scored by the defense. Quarterback Shaun Hill(notes) has averaged 6.2 yards per attempt, which puts him right there with world beaters like Seneca Wallace(notes), Kyle Boller(notes) and Marc Bulger(notes). San Francisco's projected gamebreaker, Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree(notes), didn't see action until today's game against the Texans due to a protracted holdout. And against the Texans, the Niners could manage only 50 total yards, three first downs and zero points in the first half. Head coach Mike Singletary, having seen enough, put backup quarterback Alex Smith, the team's 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick, in for Hill at the start of the second half.

And that was, inexplicably, when all heck broke loose. Smith has been as big a bust as any player this decade -- he's been an afterthought for a long time -- but he went 15 of 22 for 204 yards and three -- yes, three! -- touchdowns in a near-comeback against the Texans, who were up 21-0 at the half. All three of Smith's touchdowns were to tight end Vernon Davis(notes), who's been a model citizen since Singletary kicked him off the field in his coaching debut last year. Crabtree brought in five passes for 56 yards in a debut that saw him playing far longer than most people expected. The 49ers were driving at the end of the game when Smith threw a pick on fourth-and-10 that ended any hope of a comeback.

Still, if there's a bigger "from out of nowhere" story than Alex Smith this year, I haven't seen it. Smith hadn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game since Nov. 12, 2007, in a 24-0 loss to the Seahawks. If you combine the touchdowns he threw for in 2005 and 2007, it would equal the three he had today. The shoulder injuries thought to be the end of his 49ers career (he missed the 2008 season with a broken bone in his right shoulder) were nowhere to be found.

Do the 49ers have a quarterback controversy? And is a 49ers quarterback controversy the NFL equivalent of a pillow fight? We can but wait and see...

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