Poor Alex Smith. Even when he wins he loses. That was the case following his lone touchdown pass in Sunday's 20-6 win over the Lions. Smith finished with 230 passing yards, had a 97.5 passer rating and had one touchdown against no interceptions. But he found himself having to talk down his angry head coach after that touchdown pass, a three-yard toss to Vernon Davis that may or may not have been legal. The Lions accused Smith of crossing the line of scrimmage before letting go of the ball. The officials ended up siding with Smith.
"I need to get both of them in a room and lock the door and find out if Vernon had talked to him and told him he needed another touchdown or something like that," Mike Singletary said. "Because Alex came to me on the sideline and I was scratching my head. He knew what I was going to say and he just said, "coach, be nice. Be nice." Next time, just dive in or something."
After the game, Smith said his teammates told him he could have walked into the end zone. But at the time, he said he couldn't tell if the edge linebacker was coming after him or sticking with Davis. He also recalled a 2006 play in which he scored a touchdown at the pylon by the thinnest of margins only to find out later that then-tight end Eric Johnson was wide open in the end zone frantically waving his hands. "I remember watching film the next day and getting told that touchdown passes are a little more valuable," he said.
Singletary, it must be noted, praised Smith for his judgment overall. Smith didn't commit a turnover after throwing five INTs in the last two games.
Ahmad Brooks continues to make a case for an expanded role on defense next season. The outside linebacker forced two Detroit fumbles in the second quarter and now leads the team in both sacks and forced fumbles, despite his part-time status. On the first fumble, Brooks beat Lions tight end Will Heller to the outside and knocked the ball from quarterback Drew Stanton as he was winding up. On the second, Brooks hustled downfield to jar the ball from receiver Calvin Johnson on a 20-yard pass play.
Brooks only enters the game as a nickel pass rusher, and even that role was minimal as of a few weeks ago. But his playing time has expanded as the season has drawn to a close, and Brooks is hoping he's shown enough for a starting role in 2010. "I've been a starter all my life," he said. "That's why I'm out there. You want to become the best you can be. You want to become a starter."
The most "inactive" 49er received a workout on Sunday. Center Cody Wallace, the team's 2008 fourth-round draft, had been on the eight-man inactive list every game for the last two seasons. Against the Lions, however, he played special teams and also had a busy day on the offensive line.
With the 49ers inside the Detroit 10-yard line in the third quarter, Wallace entered as an extra offensive linemen, meaning that the first offensive snaps of his career officially came as a tight end. When right guard Chilo Rachal was injured on the same drive, Wallace filled in at that position. He also played center for the end-of-game kneel downs. On Wallace's only play at right guard, Frank Gore followed both him and pulling guard Davis Baas into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown.
Left tackle Joe Staley suffered a bruised right knee, the same knee that forced him to miss seven starts earlier this season. Staley said the latest injury was just a "tweak" and that he'd be fine. Rachal suffered a left knee strain but returned to the game. Cornerback Shawntae Spencer had a sprained right wrist but did not leave the game.
-- Matt Barrows