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August 16, 2013
Backup plan? Rookie Daniels upstages Alex Smith, fellow reserve QBs

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The 49ers gave Alex Smith warm handshakes before and after Friday's game and a barrage of big hits during it.

Along with the rest of the Chiefs starters, Smith played through the first half and was greeted by safety and cornerback blitzes as well as a crown-of-the-helmet hit that resulted in a roughing-the-passer penalty against the 49ers.

Smith left his first game as Chiefs starter at Arrowhead Stadium having completed 7-16 passes -- three of them were dropped -- for 62 yards and 54.7 passer rating. For most of the half, he was pitted against San Francisco's reserves. The 49ers defense did not allow a touchdown for the second straight week.

The overriding feeling from both Smith and the 49ers about the encounter -- it felt odd.

"It was definitely, definitely different," Smith said. "I mean, those are guys that I played a long time with and got to know really well. It was weird facing them."

Said Jim Harbaugh: "It felt a lot like going against my brother, which I've had the opportunity to do. ... This was personal in the best kind of way."

Said running back Frank Gore: "It was strange."

While Smith and the quarterback who took his job last year, Colin Kaepernick, were the game's headliners, it was an undercard quarterback, B.J. Daniels, who had the best performance.

Daniels, a seventh-round draft pick, engineered the 49ers' only touchdown drive in San Francisco's 15-13 win. He hit four different receivers on the 13-play drive in the fourth quarter. Daniels, a read-option quarterback at South Florida, showed a nice combination of zip and touch before throwing a perfect, 14-yard pass to undrafted rookie wideout Chuck Jacobs in the corner of the end zone.

Daniels didn't take a snap in last week's game against Denver, and he's been the fourth quarterback in the 49ers' training-camp practices. Still, Harbaugh said that Daniels is -- and has been -- in the competition with Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien to be Kaepernick's primary backup.

Asked if he felt he was in the running, Daniels said it's not something he's focused on. "I'm just excited about the touchdown," said Daniels, who finished 6-9 for 72 yards with a 128 passer rating.

The rookies' drive contrasted starkly with the performances from McCoy and Tolzien. They mostly played against the Chiefs starters while Daniels played against the backups.

Running back Frank Gore provided the only early offensive highlight, cutting back to his left and picking up 52 yards to the Kansas City 23-yard line. Kaepernick completed one pass before Phil Dawson came in for a 42-yard field.

That was it for the 49ers starter. San Francisco's roster battles mostly are at back-up positions, and Harbaugh said he wanted to see how those players fared against starting-caliber competition.

McCoy and Tolzien alternated for the rest of the first half with both making dubious decisions. McCoy, who last week threw an interception on a pass to wideout A.J. Jenkins, twice looked for Jenkins in the first half. The first attempt was knocked away by cornerback Sean Smith. The second was picked off by Smith.

Harbaugh said he thought Jenkins had a step on Smith on the play and that McCoy's throw should have been in front of Jenkins. "I thought he did OK," Harbaugh said of Jenkins.

McCoy left the game completing 3-6 attempts for 35 yards and a 28.5 passer rating. He finished second to Gore in rushing, picking up 37 yards on four carries.

Tolzien entered the game on the third series and immediately had a bad exchange with center Jonathan Goodwin.

On third down, Tolzien nearly threw an interception deep in his own territory, but Chiefs cornerback Dunta Robinson couldn't hold onto the point-blank opportunity. Robinson also dropped a would-be interception on a fourth-down pass by Tolzien in the second quarter. Tolzien was 3-8 for 30 yards and 49.0 passer rating.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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