The 49ers entered Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints facing a quarterback who has done a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly, and generally avoiding too many sacks. Drew Brees entered the game having been sacked 16 times on the season, which put him among the league leaders for fewest sacks on the season.
Through the first half of Sunday's game, the 49ers struggled to get on Brees. They were getting into the backfield, but Brees was able to get rid of the ball before he was taken down. The Saints were not blowing up on offense in the first half, but they were definitely looking solid, and turning the game into a tough one for the 49ers. Until the closing minute of the first half, things remained dicey.
And then Ahmad Brooks and Donte Whitner happened. After Colin Kaepernick threw an interception at the Saints 44, the 49ers defense responded in a big way. Brooks made a good read on Brees and showed great hands in picking off a pass and running it back 50 yards for a touchdown to close the half. The 49ers added a second interception return for a touchdown on a Donte Whitner pick on the next Brees pass in the third quarter, giving the 49ers a 28-14 lead.
The Saints responded with a touchdown, and had some opportunities later in the game, but the second pick six effectively ended this game. It set the 49ers up in a position where the pass rush could pin their ears back and overwhelm a beleaguered Saints offensive line.
Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and Ahmad Brooks each grabbed 1.5 sacks on the day. Another half sack by Patrick Willis gave the 49ers five sacks against Brees. We'll have more on Brooks monster performance, but for now I wanted to acknowledge another big day from Aldon Smith.
With 1.5 sacks, Smith now sits at 16.5, with a two sack lead over J.J. Watt and 2.5 over Von Miller. Watt put together a dominant performance with three sacks on Thanksgiving. Miller had a sack of his own on Sunday. Aldon is currently averaging 1.5 sacks per game and is on pace for 24 sacks. That would put him past Michael Strahan (22.5) for the single season sack record.
Additionally, Aldon now has 30.5 sacks through his first 27 games. He is the fastest player to 30 sacks, moving past Reggie White who had 30 through his first 28 games. The record for sacks through two full seasons is 31.0, held by White. Aldon moved past Derrick Thomas who had 30.0 through his first two full seasons. It is worth noting that sacks have only been tracked since 1982.
User premthegrem made a good point yesterday about how strong the top of the 2011 rookie class has been in the NFL. Smith, Miller and Watt all came out of that class with Miller drafted second overall, Smith seventh overall and Watt eleventh overall. That's not too shabby. There are still some question marks in this draft class, but the top of the class has some serious talent in there.