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Smith returns to Candlestick spotlight

  • Todays game marks Alex Smith's first regular-season home start since Oct. 28, 2007, against the New Orleans Saints when he tried unsuccessfully to play with a grade-3 right shoulder separation. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

SAN FRANCISCO Since he was drafted with the No.1 overall draft pick in 2005, Alex Smith has experienced a dearth of intense praise and slaps on the back.

He might have received the biggest compliment in his NFL career from an authority figure last week when 49ers coach Mike Singletary suggested Smith is, indeed, the organizations quarterback of the future.

It looks like he is developing very quickly into that quarterback that can be a special quarterback, Singletary said.

When told of Singletarys comment, Smith replied, Its encouraging.

But then he quickly shifted into reality mode. He knows if hes going to become a quarterback seen around the league in that light, he is going to require a lot of help.

Ive talked to Singletary about this to be a great offense, an effective offense, you have to be able to do it all, Smith said. You cannot be one dimensional. You still have to be able to run the ball.

If you look at the Colts (last week against the 49ers), I think you saw our defense really take away their run. We made them one dimensional, and that was probably the least effective theyve been all year.

The 49ers enter todays game against the Tennessee Titans at Candlestick Park on a three-game losing streak, and losers of four of their past five games. And while most eyes will be on quarterbacks Smith and Vince Young, the game might ultimately be decided on which team establishes the more formidable run attack.

The 49ers have struggled this season to gain consistency with its run game. Running back Frank Gore has hit three home runs touchdown runs of 80, 79 and 64 yards. But there have also been an alarming number of whiffs.

Tennessee has experienced grand success on the ground this season, as second-year back Chris Johnson leads the NFL with 824 yards (6.9 average) on 119 carries. That has not translated into a lot of wins, as the Titans enter todays game with a 1-6 record.

Johnson will meet his match today against a stout 49ers front seven that ranks second in the league against the run despite having already faced Minnesotas Adrian Peterson and St. Louis Steven Jackson, who are tied for second in the league with 784 yards rushing.

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