Alex getting in his groove

The last time Alex Smith appeared on Monday Night Football, he was a sore-shouldered quarterback whose reputation took a beating on the national stage in 2007. Smith is a different QB this time around as he prepares for Monday's game against Arizona, and here Smith covers a wide spectrum of topics regarding finding himself as San Francisco's starting QB and preparing for the Cardinals.

On the offense using more ball control as a game plan against Arizona: "Absolutely, I think that ball control comes in many different forms. I don't think that it necessarily means grinding it in on the run. I think that ball control is about moving the chains, so whatever way you can get that done, getting first downs run or pass, that's what is going to keep the opposing offense off of the field."

On the team's poor third-down completion percentage in last week's game at Seattle: "There's probably not just one thing, it's probably a lot of things, lack of execution. We did put ourselves in some difficult third downs at times. In a few of those backed-up situations, you're kind of limited on third down as well. It was probably a number of things to why that statistic ended up coming out like that."

On whether the third-down statistic got his attention when looking at the stat sheet at the end of the game: "That jumped out at me, absolutely. In fact, I didn't even necessarily get that impression out there on the field. I guess I really had no idea. It felt like we were moving the ball well at times. I know that we struggled there a little bit in the third quarter, but didn't realize that it was that bad."

On looking to prove critics wrong from his last Monday night game at Seattle in 2007: "To tell you the truth, I haven't really thought about it. Every week is such a big week in the NFL. The fact that, all of a sudden, this one is a little different in the sense that this one will be played on Monday, so the weeks change. But other than that, I haven't put much thought into it. We played a couple of weeks ago on Thursday night, and we already had a taste of the national TV spotlight so to speak. We're just trying to go out there and play good football."

On his past issues concerning his throwing fundamentals and how he has improved since then: "I think that there were a lot of things going on at that time. I think that there was a lot of compensation going on throughout that whole process and the weeks leading up to that with me. So, absolutely, I guess that looking back, there probably was a lot fundamentally that wasn't right, but I didn't necessarily go back and study it or anything. I think moving on from there, it was a matter of getting healthy and getting right. I imagine looking back that it wasn't right, you start to compensate, so you start to adjust, and things change."

On working with different QB coaches throughout his career: "You start there from building your fundamentals and when you take a chunk of time off from throwing and you come back in a controlled environment and come out here on the practice field and get to really start from scratch and you get to build those fundamentals and basically start over from there."

On whether his fundamentals are where he wants them to be at this point: "I'm getting there. I think I've definitely improved in some areas. You're never finished with it. It's one of those things you're constantly working on. Either they're improving or they are getting worse. It's one of those types of things, you constantly have to work on and harp on it to keep those fundamentals where you want them."

On whether he considers himself a different player than before his injury: "Yes, absolutely – I'm the same player but there's been a lot of growth and change since then. I've learned a lot, I've been through a lot. I think I see the game better. A lot of things that we've talked about, I feel like I react better. I have improved in a lot of areas out there."

On finally finding somewhat of a groove and tempo to his game: "Yes, I think so. I really felt that I was heading in that direction a couple of years back and yes, got sidetracked and in a roundabout way to where I am now. I definitely am seeing things the best that I have ever seen them, reacting to them, understanding what I am getting, what it is that we're trying to do, all of those things that go into playing quarterback and decision making. This is probably the best that I've felt."

On whether production is what it really comes down to: "Yes it is, and that's something that you want to look at, productivity and statistics, but at the same time, you're not living in the statistical world either. In the end, it's about going out there, playing football and trying to win a game. I think if you get caught up in the stats too much, it can actually be harmful."

On facing Arizona's defense for the second time this season and the concerns: "They're pretty solid all the way around, I think. They have a lot of good players across the board. The thing I see on film is that they play tremendously fast. They give a lot of different looks in the secondary. They disguise well. I think they are very solid up front. They get off the ball and I think both corners are playing pretty well right now. I think they are a good test for us. I think they're going to challenge us and we'll have to challenge them as well."

On the team's concern of Arizona winning the NFC West with a win on Monday night: "At this point, it's a must-win anyway, so it doesn't really change anything. I guess that comes secondary to the fact that we've got to win the game."

On how a quarterback feels in a game when throws are dropped: "I try not to get into it. I try not to think about it. Those are things outside of your control. That's one thing you learn over the years. It does no good, especially during game situations, to really worry about things like that. Do your job to the best of your ability. Go out there and try to execute it. Give your team a chance to win, give us a chance to score some points. Those things are going to happen, dropped balls are going to happen just like errant passes are going to happen. You try to minimize them as much as possible."

On whether he is aware of how he reacts to a dropped pass: "I guess sometimes you don't always realize what you might do, but as a quarterback, obviously, you are always trying to keep good body language out on the field."

On the offense scheme changing throughout the season and similarities to Arizona's offense: "I don't know, I guess I haven't had time to really compare. I think that if you looked at the run-pass ratio the last couple of weeks, teams might say that. But I think we're striving to be unique in our own way. I think, and I go back to this it really needs to be balanced to do what it takes to win, do what it takes to score points, to be productive."

On saying anything to the WR on the sideline after dropping a pass: "If I say anything at all, it's encouragement. Those guys have enough to think about. They make plays and catch balls sometimes that shouldn't be caught so, I know they're working at it and they don't need to hear anything from me, as far as catching the football. They know, we're all professionals, they know when they made a mistake or should have made a play."

On why TE Vernon Davis has become a more productive tight end this year and how vital he is to the offense: "I think time is probably a good answer. He's had time to grow and understand and develop his game and he's worked hard at it. Over the course of that time, as he's made plays, you get more and more confident ok about what he can and can't do. I think right now, he's playing really well, playing fast, making a lot of plays for us. I think you gain that confidence by doing it, and that does take time."

On whether the only way the team can achieve balance is by forcing the defense to go into nickel: "Potentially, it's the same the other way. If you're running the ball, and you're heavy run, you're running enough to get them to overload the box, you can throw the ball. It's either way, and it changes over the course of the game depending on the situation, third down, red zone – all of those types of things constantly change over the course of the game. It's a give and take, absolutely of what you're doing."

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