49ers vs. Cardinals Matchup Preview: Containing WR Larry Fitzgerald

49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky spoke with the media yesterday afternoon (transcript after the jump) and the very last question brought up the issue of Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald:

On CB Nate Clements having success covering Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald:

"Just because we face them twice a year and we've been facing them for the last couple of years. I think when you get familiar with guys, it's a little bit easier and vice versa from the offensive standpoint. It's always good when you know the person and play against them twice a year."

One of my favorite matchups each year is the battle that pits Fitzgerald most often against cornerback Nate Clements. While Clements has had his share of struggles during his time in San Francisco, there seem to be certain times when he steps up his game. Over the last two years, the 49ers have done a very solid job in containing the dynamic Fitzgerald. They don't completely shut him down but his impact has been lessened. Here are Fitzgerald's numbers against the 49ers (two games each year):

2009: 8 receptions, 93 yards, 1 touchdown
2008: 11 receptions, 77 yards, 1 touchdown
2007: 12 receptions, 176 yards, 2 touchdowns
3-year average for career: 19 receptions, 170 yards, 3 touchdowns

He was quite solid in 2007 against the 49ers, but in 2008 and 2009 he's been held relatively in check. He's gotten one score each season but otherwise hasn't blown things up. This season, Football Outsiders ranks the 49ers 22nd in the NFL defending against No. 1 wide receivers. This should be one of the more interesting matchups of the game. Clements does have some past success against Fitzgerald, but the Cardinals dynamic number one receiver can explode at any moment. The 49ers defense will have to keep an eye on Fitzgerald all night long.

Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky
Post Walk-Thru - November 26, 2010
San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center

On Arizona not running the ball very much:

"I think you when you go in during the week, you go and you watch exactly what they do throughout the whole year. They're still going to have situations where they run the football. It depends on who you play. I know they've played other defenses and maybe that was their game plan going into it. But we'll see what happens. You pretty much have to just go off of what you've seen in the past."

On whether you can keep a quarterback in the pocket:

"Yeah, bring everybody. You keep them in the pocket as long as you have edge players on the edge. There are certain ways you can keep guys in the pocket based upon the stunts you have upfront. But sometimes he's got to feel that soft spot and that's when he gets out sometimes with a four-man rush."

On the lack of turnovers forced by the defense this season and how that can be changed:

"I think we stress stripping the ball during practice. We encourage our guys to pick off the balls during practice. Just sometimes they don't go your way. You have some years where you're successful in turnovers and other years you don't. Do I know why? No. Even when I played, sometimes you have some games where you have a lot of turnovers and other game you didn't have any. You've got to keep on fighting, keep on battling and hopefully we'll get some turnovers this week."

On whether turnovers have to do with luck:

"Yeah, shoot. Sometimes when the ball gets tipped up or if the guy's not looking or is in a certain spot, you look for a lot of tips and over throws usually during the year. Sometimes we get them and sometimes we don't."

On whether it has been a concern not getting the turnovers or making game-changing plays:

"I think you always want to go in and stop individuals either three-and-outs or turnovers. That's the way to get the offense to turn over the ball. It's great for us even in three-and-outs when we stop people three-and-out, I think that's a turnover because it doesn't have the field position behind it but at least it backs the team up and they have to punt out or whatever."

On how different the Cardinals offense is without QB Kurt Warner:

"It's different. Kurt's a Hall of Fame quarterback, I think, that has a lot of talent. You get a quarterback of not his caliber in there, it changes your game plan, it changes the way you do things. I think they lost [Ravens WR Anquan] Boldin as well, kind of hurt them a little bit. With Kurt especially, he was a good football player."

On whether having a four-man rotation at OLB is counterproductive:

"Which guy are you? You have to look at it from that standpoint if it's counterproductive. Is it the guy that's getting reps or the guy that's not getting the reps? I think with a couple of our outside linebackers playing on special teams and stuff, with Manny [Lawson] especially, it actually helps him I think. The reason why is he gets a little bit of a blow on the sideline and not going 24-7 and playing 60-70 snaps. He's got some situations where he can take a blow, which is good for him. A lot of players are like that and I think he is one."

On whether he feels good about the rotation:

"Yeah, I think we need to get better each and every week. The rotation is fine. There's certain situations where you might want other guys in there in certain situations and sometimes we do sub them in like that."

On LB Ahmad Brooks and why he hasn't taken it to the next level:

"I don't know. You'll have to ask him. I've got an opinion. I think he's a fine football player. He's got to keep on working at his craft. I think physical ability can only take you so far. You've got to really understand the whole system with defense and offense and grow each and every year, just like a lot of players do and that's what he's got to do. He's continuing, he's getting better. I think training camp hurt him when he got hurt and he was off for six weeks. That's a big span to be off when we're installing a lot of stuff and he's always trying to catch up. And that's tough."

On whether Brooks is in shape:

"I think he is. I think he is."

On whether S Dashon Goldson will be able to play:

"Yeah, he'll be ready to go. He'll be ready for Monday night."

On DT Justin Smith playing in his 150th consecutive game:

"I hope he gets another 150. He's a good football player. He doesn't care about that. That's just the type of guy he is. He cares about winning football games and he's a good, hard worker."

On CB Nate Clements having success covering Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald:

"Just because we face them twice a year and we've been facing them for the last couple of years. I think when you get familiar with guys, it's a little bit easier and vice versa from the offensive standpoint. It's always good when you know the person and play against them twice a year."

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