Hot reads: Improved Alex Smith has 49ers surging

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith passes the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith passes the ball during their game against the Detroit Lions at Candlestick Park. (Sept. 16, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty

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Bob Glauber Newsday columnist Bob Glauber

Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets and ...

Let's not go there just yet with Alex Smith, OK?

We won't even begin to draw any comparisons between him and the quarterback royalty in San Francisco that begins and ends with Hall of Fame legends Joe Montana and Steve Young.

But at least we're finished with the discussion about lumping Smith into the group of NFL all-time busts. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft had failed to meet expectations in his first six seasons, but he's now in the midst of an astonishing rebirth. After helping the 49ers get to last season's NFC Championship Game, he has them off to another strong start with resounding wins over the Packers and his more celebrated draft classmate Aaron Rodgers and the Lions.

Smith may not be on a track to equal the accomplishments of his more celebrated 49ers' predecessors. But he is easily the most improved player in the entire league since the start of last season, and he's a major reason the 49ers are in the conversation once more for Super Bowl contenders.

The statistic that best illustrates Smith's resurgence: He has thrown 216 straight passes without an interception. And that beats even Montana and Young. Smith has won 16 of his last 19 starts, and ranks third in the NFL with a 115.9 passer rating.

"It's always a work in progress," he said. "You're always trying to get better. As a quarterback, No. 1, making good decisions, making the right decisions. And then throwing accurate footballs. So, always just trying to get better. It changes week-to-week. Something I try to take pride in."

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Peyton's arm strength questioned

After throwing three interceptions in Monday night's loss to the Falcons, questions have emerged about Peyton Manning's arm strength.

He looked fine in The Broncos' Week 1 win over the Steelers. But at age 36 and coming off four neck surgeries, some of Manning's passes wobbled noticeably against the Falcons. But Manning is taking the second-guessing in stride. The other day at practice, Manning was near the end zone where the media watches from behind the end line. He warned reporters to watch out.