Super Bowl XLVII will feature two top-tier defenses, so it would not surprise anyone if Sunday's game yields an explosion of sacks, interceptions and hard hits.
In a lot of ways, the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens are schematically similar. They both have strong play from their inside linebackers, a dominant presence in the trenches, a hawking, hard-hitting tandem on the backend and most of all, a premier rush specialist.
While Terrell Suggs is a household name in Baltimore, Aldon Smith just recently emerged in San Francisco. 2012 was Smith's first year as a starter. He adapted extremely well to full-time duties, which necessitated him stepping up in coverage and against the run.
Not only did he show he could be a complete player, but he revealed his ability to be one of the leagues most dominant pass rushers. He finished his first full season with 19.5 sacks -- just three shy of the NFL single-season record.
The remarkable part was, he achieved his season total in the first 13 games. Smith has not had a single sack in the last 5 games, which includes the last three games of the regular season. Given the hot pace he was on, many have been interested in the sudden drought.
A lot more guys coming to block me. I'm getting double-teamed a lot, triple-teamed at times, and then the quarterbacks are getting the ball out fast. Another thing that's really cool about that is if I'm not making a play, a lot of times I'm getting double-teamed a sack comes from somebody else. I might not get it, but at the end of the day the stats still say it's a sack.
He's doing a great job still. A lot of guys are chipping him. A lot of guys are squeezing to him. A lot of guys are really pretty much double teaming him, so that happens. Other guys are getting free. Other guys are making plays and that's the thing about football. We're a very unselfish team and that's what we need, guys that can come out and demand double teams and get other guys free as well.
With how well Smith came on and how quickly, it should be no surprise that he is demanding this sort of attention.
But as both players acutely noted, this opens opportunities for other 49er defenders. If Smith is going to hog two or three blockers, than someone else is going to have a very favorable matchup. Besides, Aldon Smith is still getting pressure on the quarterback and forcing quick decisions.
While it's nice to see him get in a rhythm, consistently nailing the QB and putting up gaudy numbers, it's hard to rack up multi-sack games when the offense is keying in on him.
On the bright side, Aldon Smith performs best under the national spotlight. He has 10 sacks in prime time games this year, including his late season drought. So even with his supposed cold streak factored in, Smith is still averaging 1.25 sacks a game.
There is no bigger spotlight than the Super Bowl. And with all that's on the line, it wouldn't shock me to see Smith end his cold streak by getting to Joe Flacco once or twice.
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