Jim Harbaugh was wired for sound in the new VERSUS show Turning Point, which aired Thursday night, but the lasting image may have been Alex Smith smiling like a kid at a carnival as his new coach thumps his shoulder pads and pumps him up before the game.
Previous images of Smith have caught the quarterback in much gloomier moods. The one that stands out from last year is Mike Singletary barking at Smith as if he's a Parris Island drill instructor during a mistake-filled loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
On Sunday, it seemed as if Smith - in a torture chamber in recent seasons - actually was having fun. Harbaugh says words of encouragement to Smith and to his assistants about Smith throughout the piece. The key moment of the segment occurs right before the half with the 49ers deep in Seattle territory but with no timeouts.
Harbaugh is the voice in Smith's radio receiver. "Hey, Alex, this is a boot -- throw it away if no one's open," he says with 17 seconds left and the ball at the Seattle 1-yard line. "We can't be down in bounds here. We can't be down in bounds."
Smith, of course, runs the ball in for a touchdown, juking safety Kam Chancellor before being whacked by Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry just beyond the goal line. He gets a long and enthusiastic bear hug from a whooping Harbaugh when he gets to the sideline. And that's the other lasting impression of the piece - just how much the head coach enjoys the game.
Braylon Edwards has the best line from the show. After Ted Ginn's second return for a touchdown, the Michigan product goes up to Harbaugh, another Michigan product, and tells him that Ginn did the same thing when Michigan played Ginn's Ohio State teams. "I saw that BLEEP for three years in college," Edwards says. "I said, 'Why are you kicking him the BLEEPing ball?'"
When he shakes hands - quickly -- with Pete Carroll after the game, Harbaugh says, "Alright. We'll see you down the road." "Nice game," Carroll says in return.
-- Matt Barrows