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Niners looking to Troy Smith to start new winning streak

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Their offensive progress and winning streak having come to a screeching halt, the San Francisco 49ers now look to bounce back behind the quarterback who took part in the team's first home shutout loss in 33 years.

It's not all on Troy Smith to get the 49ers back on track after their 21-0 defeat by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, but he's a pretty good place to start.

If Smith is to remain secure as the team's starter, the fourth-year veteran needs to return to the winning form he displayed in his first two starts when the 49ers visit the Arizona Cardinals on Monday.

"This is the game where we have to take a step back and look at how he responds during this game and how he does," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said Wednesday. "He's done some good things, and if Troy is the guy that's helping us win, then he's going to play. If he's not, then somebody else is going to play."

In the past two weeks, Smith has experienced both the peaks and valleys of the NFL. Now he needs to rise again to prevent the 49ers from sinking to the bottom of the NFC West in a virtual elimination game between 3-7 teams.

Smith passed for a career-high 356 yards on Nov. 14 to lead the 49ers to a 23-20 overtime victory over the St. Louis Rams, San Francisco's second consecutive victory since he took over as the team's starting quarterback.

But with the 49ers presented with an opportunity last week to get back in the divisional title chase, Smith was sacked six times, threw his first interception of the season and completed barely half of his passes while finishing with season lows of 148 yards and a 51.5 rating.

Smith said his approach won't change after his worst game as a 49er.

"You have to stay on an even keel and not let (others) dictate what's going on offensively," Smith said. "I respond to every situation by just being a part of my team, holding it up, just letting them know that whether it's a great game or a bad game, you won't get a different Troy Smith. You're going to get the same person."

The 49ers would like to see the Troy Smith who threw for 552 yards with no turnovers in his first two starts against the Denver Broncos and St. Louis.

Smith had success rolling out and throwing on the run in those games, and his play-action style fit in nicely with the 49ers' power rushing approach that features running back Frank Gore.

But Tampa Bay effectively stymied both Smith and the San Francisco offense by bottling the quarterback and keeping him in the pocket, forcing him to throw from the middle of the field and reducing the impact of his athleticism.

It could be a template for others to follow. But offensive coordinator Mike Johnson believes the 49ers can adjust to put the juice back in Smith's game.

"There are certain things he can do that we are trying to build on and grow his package and give him more things where we have more things that can make us more effective and explosive as an offense," Johnson said. "I thought we had a game plan that was dead-on last week. We just didn't execute it well. That falls on me."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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