49ers QB Alex Smith facing higher expectations

By Antonio Gonzalez

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 23 2012 7:52 p.m. MDT

Smith showed incredible efficiency last season, tossing 17 touchdown passes to only five interceptions, and led two late touchdown drives in San Francisco's thrilling 36-32 division round playoff victory over Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

The problem that had been there all season — often masked in victories where the 49ers could build a lead, run the ball late and lean on their defense.

Stuck in long third downs all season, Smith relied so much on Vernon Davis and the other tight ends or running backs.

"We were so inconsistent when we had to throw the football," he said. "Third-and-mediums, third-and-longs, we weren't very good. Red zone, we weren't good at times. We got to get better there."

Notes: TE Delanie Walker fell to the ground in pain during one play, clutching his left knee. A team trainer wrapped Walker's knee and he was held out for the remainder of practice. Walker said he should be fine, but was going to get checked out by trainers. ... The 49ers signed three-time All-Pro punter Andy Lee to a six-year extension through the 2018 season.

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Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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