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Not so elite: Giants DE Tuck thinks Niners try to hide Smith

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh blew minds earlier this week when he said -- without winking, crossing his fingers or any other outward gesture -- that Alex Smith is as elite as any quarterback in football.

Now, with a matchup against the 49ers looming, Giants defensive end Justin Tuck has chimed in with his own (far less glowing) opinion of the Niners QB.

"He is a guy who they are trying to keep out of position to win the football game, Tuck said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "Obviously, with a back like Frank Gore and the O-Line keeping them in third-and-short situations, and even if it is third and 6 or 7, they still feel that they can pick it up running. I think they are asking Alex not to lose the game."

It's hard to argue with Tuck's assessment. The 49ers have jumped out to a 7-1 start largely on the basis of stout defense, a strong running game, and mistake-free football from their quarterback.

"He is playing decent with 10 touchdowns and two picks," Tuck said. "He is not putting them in situations where they are going to be pinned back or their defense is not going to be put in bad situations."

To hear Tuck's side of it, you'd think the Giants don't even need to dress their secondary on Sunday.

"If they get in field-goal range, they are going to run the ball and make sure they come away with some points," he said. "If they are not in, they are going to run the ball and make sure they punt to put their defense in good positions to stop the offense."

While we feel Tuck's viewpoint has more validity than Harbaugh's, Smith deserves his share of credit for lifting San Francisco out of mediocrity. The Niners obviously thought they were getting more than a game manager when they drafted Smith No. 1 overall in 2005, but it beats the bust label pinned to the QB before the season began.

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