I like writing about the 49er rookies because I think we had an awesome draft this year and there is nothing better than feeling like an idiot in sports. When Aldon Smith was drafted in the first round, I think I put on some Death Cab or Nine Inch Nails and cried myself to sleep. Not just because those are horrid bands, mind you, but because I thought he was way too much of a reach with the first pick.
Then, Chris Culliver's name popped up in the third round. I was pretty upset. By all accounts (read: random internet articles I decided were divinely inspired), Culliver was a no name and some other dudes, whose names I don't remember, were way better. What, Baalke, don't you know how to read?!
Yeah, so I was wrong on both accounts and that's awesome.
Aldon Smith's adventures in the lands of Backfieldia are well documented and will be passed down upon ages and ages as the lore of the 49ers 2011 draft class. The legacy of Culliver, however, is just beginning. Follow me, oh intrepid travelers, as we make a pilgrimage to the shine of Sir Culliver, the MegaStopper.
I think Culliver had some of the most awesome comments after the game which are worthy of reproduction here (I'm lifting them, mind you, from Matt Maiocco's "Rookies come up big in ‘best defensive performance'").
In discussing Calvin Johnson, Culliver remarked that "you have to be physical with him." This is coming from a kid who barely played cornerback in college. He, in turn, is asked to cover the best wide receiver in the NFL. That same receiver who happens to be a couple of inches over ten feet and catches, like, hecka touchdowns (nine in
five six - sucka! - games to be precise). So yeah, it's natural that Culliver has an unabashed confidence in being "physical" with a receiver who weekly makes triple coverage look like insipid uniforms hanging up to dry on a clothesline.
He continued to say that "all his plays he had on me, he pushed off on me. Refs didn't call it but I ain't complaining." Culliver is essentially asserting that anytime Johnson made a play on him, it's because Johnson committed a bit of PI in the process. Wow. Just wow. I mean, the refs on Sunday were craptastic, but this is bold. And, while perhaps a tad disingenuous, it sure felt like Calvin Johnson was dominated that game. He wasn't. He outplayed all of our receivers, but good golly miss molly, he was essentially a non-factor. I think largely because of Culliver. He deserves that statement.
So, that previous comment uses arrogance as the fulcrum for its rhetorical twists and turns, and quite frankly Culliver earned it. Not by himself, mind you, but he did an excellent job. So, when he finishes out his description of the game by saying, "I had tight coverage on him. All he did was try to release outside. And when he went inside, he tried to push me off. He was complaining. And I told him he had to shut up because he's too big for that," I totally believe him. I give him the benefit of the doubt.
Yeah, he's still a rookie. I get that. No, I don't think he is a true number one CB right now. But man oh man did he play with aggressiveness and spunk against one of the hardest receivers to defend.
He didn't do it by himself and not for the entire game, but when I first saw him in coverage, I had a mini-heart attack (like James). But, quite frankly, it was unwarranted. The guy has so much potential. Let's just hope we don't all jinx him or something.