Alex Smith could set records despite short season

Alex Smith could set records despite short season
December 21, 2012, 4:15 pm
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With seven more pass attempts, Alex Smith would qualify for posting the highest QB rating this year and the highest single-season completion percentage. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Alex Smith hasn't seen the field since he suffered a concussion against the Rams on Nov. 11, but that doesn't mean his stellar start to the 2012 season will be swept under the carpet. In fact, Smith has a chance to enter his abbreviated campaign into the NFL record books.

Smith has attempted 217 passes this year, seven shy of the 224 attempts the league requires for eligibility in yearly records (14 attempt-per-game average). It's significant because Smith is on the doorstep of two NFL honors.

The 49ers backup quarterback has a chance to finish the season with the highest QB rating in the league, and he is within striking distance of the NFL record for single-season completion percentage set at 71.2 last year by Drew Brees.

Aaron Rodgers currently owns the top QB rating in the league with a 104.7 mark. Robert Griffin III is close behind him at 104.2, followed by Smith at 104.1. If Smith qualifies with another seven attempted passes this season, there are numerous scenarios in which he surpasses Rodgers and Griffin for the title.

In their final two games of the season, Rodgers faces the 19th- and 23rd-ranked passing defenses of the Titans and Vikings, while Griffin faces the 13th- and 14th-ranked passing defenses of the Eagles and Cowboys.

Smith has connected on 152 of his 217 pass attempts this season, giving him a clean 70.0 completion percentage that falls 1.2 percentage points behind Brees' NFL record, even though Brees attempted significantly more passes with 657 attempts.

As the New York Times points out, an additional nine completed passes would give Smith the all-time record with a completion percentage of .71238, barely besting Brees' .71232 mark. Duplicating his last full game -- an 18-for-19 effort against the Cardinals -- would be more than enough to do the trick with a dominating completion percentage of .72033.

The 49ers have their playoff berth clinched, but they are still jockeying for standings superiority and the all-important first-round bye. Head coach Jim Harbaugh won't throw Smith out there just for the pursuit of records. And you shouldn't expect him to tailor his play calls towards breaking the records if Smith does end up in the game.

As long as Colin Kaepernick continues to play at an Offensive-Player-of-the-Week caliber, that might not happen.

"The only thing I did to lose my job," Smith said, "was get a concussion."

It's true, Smith didn't do anything to lose his job. But football is a business, and the brutal reality is that Alex Smith is only one play away from once again being the 49ers starting quarterback -- with a pair of records in reach.

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