In week 12 of the 2009 season, Alex Smith registered the third most passing attempts of his career (41) in a 20-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. In week 13 against the Seattle Seahawks, Smith attempted a career high 45 passing attempts. Over his last six games of the season, Smith averaged 36.1 passing attempts per game. To put that number into perspective, only Matt Schaub (36.4 ATT/G) and Matthew "We were always trailing so I had to throw the ball" Stafford (37.7 ATT/G) threw the ball more per game (although they did it over a full season).
In years past, it would have been very difficult to get a feel for the 49ers passing attack. But this year, Smith is playing under the same offensive coordinator--a luxury he never had in the past. Jimmy Raye appears committed to spreading defenses out and letting Smith attack them with his arm. In the Sports Illustrated NFL preview, Smith said, "We've evolved. We can play three wides, get guys in space, throw it all over the field, and we think we can win playing that way."
What I wonder is whether Mike Singletary thinks they can win that way? Throwing the ball 35+ times a game doesn't seem to fall in line with Singletary's philosophy of smash mouth football. Jim Mora may be gone, but I don't think Singletary has forgotten these quotes:
"I’m glad he didn’t have the ball more." -Jim Mora
While I do worry about Frank Gore and the 49ers running right at Chris Clemons until Pete Carrol throws up the white flag, I still think Seattle's defense is better equipped to stop the run than it is the pass. Having a healthy Marcus Trufant back is huge, but I worry about Smith picking apart the Seahawks defense on first and second down.
If I told you before the game that Smith was going to throw the ball 35+ times, would you be worried or relieved? If your answer is relieved, be careful what you wish for.