Niners need Justin Smith, Aldon Smith to rediscover their pass rushing groove
NEW ORLEANS — Counting San Francisco’s two playoff wins, it has been five games since Aldon Smith recorded a sack. And yet, without question, the Baltimore Ravens will spend ample time preparing for the second-year player.
Smith’s defensive mate, Justin Smith, explained Wednesday during the 49ers’ media session that the Ravens have no other choice.
“I’m going to call Aldon a ‘Megatron’ type of guy on defense,” Justin Smith said, comparing his second-year compatriot to dominant Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. “Anytime you have a guy like Aldon out there, [offenses are] going to find ways to make sure he doesn’t beat you. That plays a big role in how [the Ravens] are going to get rid of the ball, how they’re going to protect the ball — they play him differently. They play us differently.”
Johnson broke the NFL’s single-season receiving record this season, eclipsing Jerry Rice’s old mark. Aldon Smith seemed primed for history, too, racking up 19.5 sacks over the 49ers’ first 13 games, a number that put him just three shy of Michael Strahan’s all-time record. Smith, though, was shut out from Weeks 15-17 and that drought has carried on to the playoffs.
“I don’t worry too much about the statistics,” Aldon Smith said. “I just want to make sure that I’m doing things right, still getting pressure, still making plays.
“Sometimes, teams allow a lot; sometimes, they throw two guys on you, three guys on you.”
Smith has seen that extra attention more often than not during his explosive two-year NFL career. He burst onto the scene last season with 14 sacks, while being used primarily in passing situations, then followed that up with a stellar 2012 after the 49ers asked him to become a three-down player.
With Justin Smith still struggling to get back to 100 percent after suffering a torn triceps, the 49ers’ pass rush has slumped as a collective unit in the playoffs. They’ll need to turn that around Sunday in order to keep Joe Flacco and Baltimore’s dangerous deep game under wraps.
The 49ers are confident that they can produce pressure in Super Bowl XLVII — and Justin Smith believes that potential starts with his younger teammate.
“You can’t [gameplan] for him, you just keep going,” Justin Smith said. “A guy like him, he’s going to affect all offensive plays. And as a defense, as a unit, that’s what you want — a guy that’s going to affect how the other team plays.”