Time off helped Smith; 49ers sign Anderson

Quarterback Alex Smith returned to the 49ers' lineup last week after missing five games with a right knee sprain. He got off to a hot start, completing eight consecutive passes. Veteran receiver Johnnie Morton said he believed Smith benefited from being on the sideline for those weeks when he was injured. "He had a different look in his eye," Morton said. "This time he looked like he was more in charge."

Smith completed 11 of 12 passes for 138 yards for a passer rating of 114.6 in the first half. But the second half was not good, as Smith threw three interceptions in the 49ers' 17-10 loss to the Cardinals.

Still, Smith showed some flashes during the first half - something he had not done in his previous two starts. Even Smith said he felt a lot different Sunday, as the 49ers' system and reading NFL defenses are starting to fit together.

"Things have slowed down for me," Smith said. "It's given me a chance to make some throws I know I'm able to make."

Smith has thrown eight interceptions without a touchdown pass to begin his rookie season. Things don't figure to get much easier for him when the 49ers play three consecutive road games, beginning this week against Seattle.

Smith looked exceptional during a sequence in the second quarter that included his three nicest passes of the game. Smith found Morton on back-to-back 24-yard receptions. Then, he rolled right and fired a strike along the sideline to running back Frank Gore for 31 yards to the 2-yard line. Two plays later, the 49ers scored on Maurice Hicks' 1-yard run.

"There's no doubt he has talent," 49ers vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan said. "I'm definitely happy with some of the things I saw, but we wanted to win the game. The whole key is learning from this game. There's going to be a lot of things for him to learn from this."

--- The 49ers waived kicker Jose Cortez on Tuesday and replaced him on their roster with fourth-year veteran safety Marques Anderson.

Anderson (5-foot-11, 210 pounds)started 10 games at strong safety last season for the Oakland Raiders. He was with the Raiders in training camp this season but was waived before the regular season began. Anderson was claimed by the Denver Broncos after being released and played in six games for Denver before being waived November 16.

Anderson was originally was a third-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2002 out of UCLA. He played in 14 games as a rookie, making 11 starts at strong safety. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns as a rookie and was named as the Packers Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Cortez, who also played for the 49ers as their primary kicker in 2001 and 2002, was signed two weeks after a groin injury began to bother Joe Nedney during the week prior to the Nov. 27 Tennessee game. Cortez handled all of the kickoff and field goal duties against the Titans. He was successful on two PAT attempts, missed on a 34-yard field goal attempt and had two touchbacks on four kickoffs. Cortez was successful on an onsides kick attempt in the fourth quarter. Nedney was active against the Cardinals last week and is now recovered from his injury. He made a 48-yard field goal during last week's loss against Arizona.

--- Two-time Pro Bowl center Jeremy Newberry underwent a microfracture surgical procedure to repair his injured left knee on Tuesday. The surgery was performed by team physician Dr. Michael Dillingham.

--- Coach Mike Nolan blamed a bad fourth-quarter coaching maneuver on the officials. After running back Frank Gore fumbled, Nolan did not like the defense called on the first play against the Cardinals' passing attack, so he called a timeout.

After watching a replay of Gore's fumble, Nolan said he asked the officials if he would risk losing another timeout if he asked for a replay challenge. He said he was led to believe he could challenge the call without the risk of losing the team's last timeout. After the original fumble ruling was upheld, referee Walt Coleman took away the 49ers' final timeout.

"I will know the rules in the future, but the information I got back from them at the time should not have happened," Nolan said. "I made the mistake and have to live with it, but they are there to help with the rules. I wish I got better information."

--- Rookie right guard David Baas appeared to play pretty well Sunday in his starting debut despite being called for two false-start penalties. But he did not see it that way.

"I'm not pleased," Baas said. "I played like a deer in the headlights. I need to play a lot more physical. I have to be accountable when I'm on the field. In my eyes, I think I could've done a lot better."

--- Special teams ace Keith Lewis made his mark in college with an Oregon-record seven blocked kicks during his career. He has already gotten his hands on three punts in his two seasons with the 49ers. Lewis had a blocked punt late in the third quarter Sunday after narrowly missing a block in the first quarter.

"I should've had two in the game," Lewis said. "I ran by the ball on the first one. I know you're only going to get so many opportunities. I thought that was going to be it after I missed that one."

--- Safety Mike Adams made a remarkable catch for an interception late in the first half. The only problem was that it happened on a fourth-down pass. Instead of getting the ball at their own 42-yard line with 36 seconds remaining in the first half, the 49ers took over at the 15 and had no other choice but to run the clock out.

"When he caught the ball, I was pretty upset," Nolan said. "Everyone said, 'No, no, he picked it, he picked it.' I said, 'Guys, fourth down.'"

Said Adams, "Do you still ask me that question if I returned it 75 yards for a touchdown?"

--- RB Kevan Barlow is expected to return to practice Wednesday and should be able to play Sunday against the Seahawks. Barlow, the team's leading rusher, missed Sunday's game with a left knee injury.

--- FB Fred Beasley missed his third game with a neck stinger. His availability for this week's game against the Seahawks is in question.

--- WR Arnaz Battle is expected to be available for practice this week after missing Sunday's game with a bruise of his right knee. Battle has been nursing problems with his knee since the third game of the season.

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