SAN FRANCISCO – The first time Alex Smith threw an incomplete pass Sunday – and it came quickly, on the first offensive play of the game – he heard boos.
On his second pass, another incompletion, he heard them again.
You think he didn't expect it? He did.
"Oh, no question," Smith said after he returned to the starting lineup and led the San Francisco 49ers to a 40-21 victory over the Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick Park. "I knew that if some things got bad, obviously I was going to be prepared mentally (for the boos). I just didn't think it was going to happen on the first two plays."
But it did. And then they stopped. Smith led the 49ers to a touchdown on their opening drive, throwing 42 yards to Vernon Davis, and finished the day with 255 yards passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Funny how that happens.
"Alex did a great job," said Davis, who had six catches for 70 yards. "You know, he comes out every weekend and just does a tremendous job handling everything. He's always under pressure, always under the microscope, and he just manages to come through. He'll fight through adversity any day."
There was plenty this season. Smith started out 0-5, suffered a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder in a Week 7 loss to the Carolina Panthers, then sat when Troy Smith led the 49ers to consecutive wins and kept the starting quarterback job. It wasn't until last week that coach Mike Singletary decided to switch back to Alex.
"As frustrating as it is to sit out and not play, I'm always determined to try and take something away from it," Smith said. "At this point in my career, I still feel like I have so much ahead of me that I'm not in a place where I'm anywhere knowing it all. So I continually try to observe and learn from everyone around me."
So what was the different between this Smith and the one who started 1-6? He seemed more relaxed and in control from the start and threw the ball downfield with greater accuracy. There were no mistakes, no hurried throws, no fumbles.
"I felt settled in from play one," he said. "Honestly, I felt good. I probably would've thought I'd have more butterflies, or whatever you want to say, but I felt good and made good decisions."
And his teammates could sense it.
"He was very vocal in the huddle all week," rookie running back Anthony Dixon said. "He was saying little things where I was like, ‘Yeah, I could get behind that.' And you know, he just came out and put it out there on display. I really wasn't surprised because all week he was kind of up-tempo, and he seemed like he was ready to eat."
BUTLER INJURED: Seahawks wide receiver Deon Butler suffered a broken right leg on a two-yard touchdown catch near the end of the game and was taken to Stanford Hospital, where he's expected to remain for several days. Witnesses said the injury appeared to be serious.
"It was one of those things when you see one of your teammates in a situation and you can't do anything," Seahawks wide receiver Ruvell Martin said. "He just looked at me and goes, ‘My leg.' All I could do was just give him my hand and say a prayer for him and try to comfort him as much as I could."