The San Francisco 49ers continue their quest for six Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII (aka the "HarBowl") against Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens.
Colin Kaepernick has truly taken the NFL by storm in his second season, leading his team to a 7-2 record as a starter (including the postseason).
And of course head coach Jim Harbaugh has been so instrumental in the Niners' success, but let's talk about the defense. Vic Fangio has played a big part in putting the pieces together to make San Francisco's defense one of the best in the NFL.
Though the Niners' defensive linemen haven't exactly blown up the stats sheet, as Ray McDonald, Isaac Sopoaga, Justin Smith and Ricky Jean Francois combined for 153 tackles, 8.5 sacks and one forced fumble, each of them played a role in giving offensive coordinator headaches all year.
Sopoaga utilizes his size and athleticism to shed blocks while McDonald uses his quickness to get to the ball carrier. And all of them (including the most productive of the lineman, Justin Smith, who collected 66 tackles and 3.0 sacks in 14 starts
Play a role of contributing to offensive coordinator headaches. Because they are trapped they have to focus on who to choose to keep out of the open lane since each one can overtake blockers. McDonald uses his quickness to get inside and Sopoaga uses his size and athleticism to shed blocks and get to the ball carrier.
On the defensive line it holds true the 49ers are a very powerful unit but let’s see how the depth behind them hold up.
Patrick Willis, the leader of the Niners' defense, is without question the best linebacker in the NFL. Through six seasons, Willis has collected a total of 812 tackles (621 solo), 17.5 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, 49 pass deflections and seven interceptions (two returned for touchdown) and missed just four starts since getting selected 11th overall out of Ole Miss in 2007.
Standing next to him is star outside linebacker Navorro Bowman, who chalked up 143 tackles and 2.0 sacks and made a name for himself in the NFL in his second season in 2011. He led his team in tackles in 2012 as well with 149 tackles and added 2.0 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.
Speaking of star outside linebackers that have emerged in their second season, Aldon Smith, 23, made the switch from a situational pass rusher to a lethal every down linebacker. He's totaled 66 tackles, 19.5 sacks, one tipped pass, one interception and three forced fumbles in 2012.
Ahmad Brooks, 28, started every game for just the second time in his career in 2012. He racked up 46 tackles, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception this season. His numbers were very similar last year: 50 tackles, 7.0 sacks and one forced fumble.
In the defensive secondary especially physical at the cornerbacks position the 49ers love to lots of man-to-man coverage that in turn against opposing receivers turns out to be exceptional . Players devote themselves each game knowing there is a task to do and completing it. Tarell Brown and of course Carlos Rodgers is one of the most powerful cornerback duo’s in the NFL. Rodgers had 56 tackles and one interceptions for the 49ers this past season. Brown was no slouch by any means he had a career high 57 tackles and two interceptions. Brown is built on his strong work ethic, speed and quickness that puts together a special talent in San Francisco secondary he means all business come Super Bowl Sunday.
But what really makes the 49ers secondary a more deadly weapon is the use of their lots of nickel and dime packages where corners Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver will make an impact on the field. They both are young and driven to do what it takes to impact the team whether it be on special teams or filling in for the starters.
The defense is not complete without their starting safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner. These two to many are the two hardest hitting safeties in the league. On any play Goldson or Whitner has the ability to make a game changing plays in the secondary for the 49ers. Goldson may be one of the most aggressive safeties in the NFL, at times it may lead trouble while trying to make big plays on the field but he rarely makes mistakes on the field using his size, range and instinct make him know the exact time of when to make the big hit or interception. Along the side Whiner has been just as much powerful this past season he manufactured 83 tackles and two forced fumbles. Expect both of them to have a very active day come Sunday after stopping the Ravens offense.
Goldson was the perfect safety for during the playoffs as he came through against the Packers and Falcons first in Divisional round and then in the Championship, he continues to make a huge impact in the secondary by capturing twelve tackles. His presence at the free safety position overall is superior.
The 2013 post season has nearly come to an end and the 49ers defense has made a major impact on their team getting to the Super Bowl now could they continue to move on as the face the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
If the offensive unit led by Colin Kapernick and company get on the scoreboard. Baltimore better be warned the 49ers are a defensive squad that love to create turnovers, get to the ball carries, sack the quarterback and they will rise to the occasion on Sunday. But don't the 49ers better not fall asleep either the Baltimore defense is not too shabby themselves led by Ray Lewis and company they are only the leagues best this post-season.
Fangio. "Every play is an opportunity, and we certainly needed it there, and we got it."
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