A consistent force for the 49ers has been their front seven, as this season they have been exceptional against both the run and the pass. Right now, San Francisco does a lot of things really well but rushing the passer and stopping the run is probably their greatest attribute. It's amazing that the last 30 teams to have faced the Niners, home or away, have not been able to produce a 100-yard rusher. It's a real testament to the level of play up front.
Come Sunday, Eli Manning and the New York Giants will be finding out how good this front really is. Coordinator Vic Fangio has shown that he likes to bring pressure and give a lot of different looks. I think the Giants will want to try to air it out against San Francisco, so getting to Manning will be a high priority.
The Niners can bring pressure from anywhere, even while disguising it. Their defensive linemen, even though they run a 3-4 scheme, have been able to get to the quarterback. Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga and now Ricky Jean-Francois filling in for an injured Ray McDonald have all been able to generate a good push while absorbing blocks. This defensive line is big, physical, and aggressive and but fast enough to beat the offensive line to the punch.
It gets even uglier for Manning as he looks past the defensive line and onto the linebackers. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman might make the NFC Pro Bowl team as a tandem; that's how lights out they've been. Then San Francisco has a bull shark of an outside linebacker in Ahmad Brooks, who has just been absolutely relishing opportunities to hit the quarterback.
Opposite of Brooks, there is a healthy rotation going on between an intelligent veteran and a physically gifted rookie with special abilities. Parys Haralson and Aldon Smith have been holding down their side just fine this season, and the coaching staff is largely responsible for the success they've found. They have put these two players in position to do what they do best for the sake of the team.
I'd like to now mention some defensive statistics the 49ers have achieved, much to the performance of the front seven. The ones I've listed are ones I think will matter going into the game Sunday. Here are some of DeSimone's Defensive Notes:
49ers Defensive Ranks (NFL.com)
8th in yards allowed
1st in least points allowed
6th on third down
1st in fumbles
8th in TOP/G (they get off the field)
30 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher
I think it could be a tough day for Manning, and even though he did beat the New England Patriots last week, the 49ers have a much stronger defense in all aspects. San Francisco won't allow them the opportunities that New England afforded them because this team is wired differently. If anything, Manning cannot afford to be down because the Niners will be trying to put them away early.
San Francisco has also found a way to beat teams this year with competent passing attacks in Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Detroit who have all been able to push the ball down field through the air. If the Niners can get to Manning often and early, it could be their game for the taking. Getting hits on him, sacks, trying to force fumbles and dominating his offensive line to make him feel completely exposed should successfully rattle his cage. I think the 49ers can get it done.
It will be an interesting match-up, especially with David Baas returning to Candlestick a Giant. The competition between him and Sopoaga should be a fun one to watch. The Niners most likely have the right game plan in place by now; it will just come down to executing on Sunday. Looking forward to watching the trenches in that game.
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