After he threw his third interception of the first half, Alex Smith was stopped by Mike Singletary before he could reach the San Francisco sideline. The coach put his arm around Smith and began scolding him. Smith pointed to his own head, signaling it was his fault.
The former No. 1 overall pick later said he doesn't remember what Singletary told him, only that it wasn't "a real positive conversation."
Given a second chance to change his fate, Smith has not instilled a great deal of hope in San Francisco that he can still become a franchise quarterback. But even after a three-interception performance in a 27-13 loss to the Eagles, Smith considers himself in a better position than before.
"For me, this is totally different," Smith said. "Completely different. There were times in my past where I played similar games statistically and walked off the field and didn't know what happened."
This time, Smith said, he feels like he is seeing the game well. Despite a pitiful first half that resulted in a quarterback rating of 11.8 - almost matching Smith's jersey number, 11 - the San Francisco quarterback played the entire game. And it went much as his entire career has.
In other words, Smith played decent enough to stay on the field - but not to win.
"Alex played poorly," Singletary said. "I think he knows that. He is capable of playing better than that. I don't have any questions about him. I don't have any questions about him going forward."
Those possible questions don't need to be answered right now, Singletary said. There was no hesitation to keep Smith in yesterday's game, the coach said, and no concern about the 25-year-old quarterback retaining his starting job.
"I could say, 'Wow, I don't know. I have to think again.' I really don't. He's shown me enough prior to tonight," Singletary said. "He had a bad game. Great quarterbacks have bad games. I don't have any questions about him."
Yesterday's performance - 20 of 37 for 177 yards with one touchdown and three picks - was a step back for Smith, who had appeared to have turned a corner.
He sat on the bench for the first six weeks of the season before taking over for Shaun Hill in Week 7. Since then, the 49ers are 3-6. And most of those games have been close - yesterday's 14-point defeat was the largest margin since Smith regained the starting job. The five previous losses with Smith at quarterback were by a combined 23 points.
The three interceptions yesterday tied a season high, also achieved in a Week 9 loss to Tennessee. But on the 49ers' first two drives of the second half, the offense came away with 10 points to make it a one-possession game. Smith hit Josh Morgan for a 12-yard touchdown pass with 6 minutes, 18 seconds left in the third quarter.
Eventually, the Eagles' blitz caught up to Smith. He was forced to scramble and throw the ball away numerous times. He called the Eagles' pass rush "unique."
"They do some unconventional things," Smith said. "They bring a lot of different pressure looks and you have to be ready for it."
The first interception was a ball thrown just enough beyond Vernon Davis into the hands of Quintin Mikell. The second was a telegraphed pass intended for Davis that Asante Samuel jumped and picked off. And the third, by Tracy White, slipped out of his hand while pressured.
"I believe in Alex," Davis said. "I believe in what he brings to the team. I would love to keep things going. I look forward to that. But everybody makes mistakes."