After floundering for 57 minutes, Smith somehow, some way, summoned the strength to produce an 86-yard game-winning drive that looked an awful lot like some of the masterpieces authored by Walsh and his quarterback, Joe Montana.
|Alex Smith's key 25-yard scramble might turn out to be his breakthrough moment. (AP)|
There were short passes. There were critical first downs. And there was a marvelous 25-yard quarterback scramble when San Francisco absolutely, positively had to have a first down.
Most important, there was a victory. Final score: San Francisco 20, Arizona 17.
"The win is the most important thing," said Smith, who completed five passes on the game-winning drive. "The biggest thing I took from this is character and maturity. We were struggling on offense but really hung in there and knew we were going to get it done. We believed in one another and marched down the field to get the win."
They believed in one another because Smith gave them a reason. He hit his first four passes of the series, then parachuted a perfectly arched bomb into the hands of Darrell Jackson that would've been the game-winning touchdown if Jackson hadn't dropped it.
No sweat, two plays later -- with the 49ers staring down a fourth-and-1 -- Smith scrambled left, right, then left again and wound up with the game's biggest play.
"I tried to find a lane," Smith said, "and I finally found one."
According to wide receiver Arnaz Battle, the play called for two drag patterns and a drag, with Smith choosing the free receiver.
"I thought he was going to hit me," he said, "because I was open."
Instead, the harried Smith did his best Montana ... or Steve Young ... impersonation and scrambled for the critical yards, not stopping until he ducked out of bounds at the Arizona 20. After that, Battle did the rest -- first catching a pass at the 1, then scoring the winning TD on a dash to the left corner of the end zone.
The moment Battle crossed the goal line, Smith dashed to the sidelines and jumped into the arms of running back Frank Gore.