Sunday standout: The seventh-year veteran had the best winning performance of his career against the Eagles, completing 21 of 33 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns to lead the 49ers all the way back from a 23-3 deficit early in the third quarter. It was the biggest comeback victory of Smith's career, and he led the charge by completing all nine of his passes for 179 yards in the third quarter, the best statistical quarter of his career, which he finished with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Smith had touchdown passes of 30 yards to Josh Morgan and nine yards to Vernon Davis during a 4½-minute stretch, with both scoring strikes completing long but quick drives down the field. Smith was 3 for 3 through the air – including a season-best 44-yard completion to running back Kendall Hunter – to highlight a four-play, 80-yard drive to San Francisco's first touchdown. He then came back on the Niners' next possession to again complete 3 of 3 throws – including a 38-yard bomb to Michael Crabtree to start the drive – on a five-play, 77-yard march to the end zone. Smith's 291 yards passing were the fourth-most he has thrown for in a game and his most ever in a game won by the 49ers. He had five throws of 26 yards or more against the Eagles, including 26-yard passes to Morgan and Davis. Smith was 13 of 17 for 201 yards in the second half, and he completed 3 of 4 passes on San Francisco's penultimate offensive possession to help the Niners drive 77 yards in eight plays to the winning touchdown with three minutes to play. He completed passes to eight different players on the day and finished with a season-high passer rating of 112.1, the fourth-best of his career.
Season to date: Smith has completed 72 of 107 passes for 795 yards with four touchdowns and one interception this season and ranks among the NFL's leading quarterbacks in several significant categories. Smith is eighth in the NFL with a 97.7 passer rating, ranks second in the league with a 0.9 interception percentage and is fourth with a 67.3 completion percentage. He ranks seventh in the league with a 103.0 passer rating when trailing and fifth with a 112.9 rating in the second half of games. His 72.3 completion percentage in the second half ranks fourth in the NFL and he's tied for third with seven completions of 25 yards or more. Smith also ranks third with a 124.8 rating against the blitz and is fifth in the NFL with an average of 9.15 yards per pass attempt.
Need to note: Smith has led the 49ers to their first 3-1 start in the six seasons he has started games for the team. Smith became the sixth quarterback in franchise history to throw for more than 10,000 yards during Sunday's game against the Eagles and now has 10,194 career passing yards. Smith's 154.3 passer rating in the second half against the Eagles was the best by a San Francisco quarterback since Steve Young had a 157.9 rating in the second half against the Los Angeles Rams in 1993. The 49ers are now 12-1 when Smith finishes a game with a passer rating of 96.0 or better.
Smith says: "I've been part of games where you get down and then you get close but never actually finish it off like that. Especially against a team of that caliber, a good football team that was at home, in a must-win situation, and to pull it out, was a big step. I think for us, since I've been here, playing on the road has been a big test and something that we haven't done well on, and to come out on two back-to-back East coast games, to find a way to get two Ws late, there's something about that. Backs up against the wall, you're facing a lot of adversity and to find a way to get two wins is something that since I've been here we've never done."
Coach Jim Harbaugh says: "You don't have many 20-point comebacks as a quarterback, and when you do, that's definitely a character-builder for the football team, for the quarterback, for everybody. What's perfect in this game? I don't know, but I guess they judge that by quarterback rating and he had a perfect quarterback rating – nine of nine in the third quarter. That's pretty good. Really proud of him, too. He's such a tough guy, and he doesn't really say boo about anything. Takes hits, gets hits, runs. Very tough guy, very mentally tough guy, very physically tough guy. He's always struck me as a very confident guy. He's been easy to coach, he really has. Extremely bright, book smart and football experienced. It's been easy coaching him, he's done it all."
Running back Frank Gore says: "It's Alex's first time having someone who really can understand him and show him the quarterback position and put him in great situations. Coach Harbaugh is doing a great job with him. Alex is balling. He's balling out. If he keeps balling, our team will keep winning and we'll go farther and farther."
Looking forward: Smith joins quarterbacks Eli Manning of the New York Giants and Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay as finalists this week for FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week honors for games played Oct. 2-3. Smith was nominated once before in his career, Week 14 last year, but has never won the award, which is determined by fan voting. Fans can vote for the award through Friday at noon at nfl.com, and the winner will be announced later that day. Smith will look to continue the best start of his career and both he and the 49ers will look to continue gaining league-wide attention when they host the 3-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in a battle of first-place teams.
ALSO CONSIDERED: RB Frank Gore (127 yards rushing, 12-yard run for winning TD, 139 yards from scrimmage); LB NaVorro Bowman (six tackles, two for loss on third downs, fumble recovery, one pass defensed); S Dashon Goldson (game-high 10 tackles, several big hits, one pass defensed, fumble recovery on Eagles last drive); RB Kendall Hunter (38 yards rushing, 62 yards receiving, 9.1 yards per touch, several key big plays).
2011 NOTW LIST: Week 1: KR/WR Ted Ginn Jr. Week 2: QB Alex Smith. Week 3: TE Vernon Davis. Week 4: QB Alex Smith.
Jim Harbaugh would prefer people paid as little attention as possible to his improving 49ers. He's…