Fooch's Update: The second sack below has been changed from a sack to a Cam Newton run. That leaves Brooks with two sacks, instead of three.
Tuesday morning, the NFL announced that Luke Kuechly was named NFC defensive player of the week for Week 10. It was not a surprising decision given that he had 11 tackles, a sack and a pass defensed. Not too shabby. And yet, 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks put together what I thought was a pretty persuasive argument for top dog in the NFC. I suspect he might have won had the 49ers pulled out the win, but such is life.
Dan Skuta deserves plenty of credit for a strong day ahead of Aldon Smith, but Ahmad Brooks imposed his will in a manner that we haven't frequently seen. Brooks has been a very solid linebacker for the 49ers, and he does get sacks. However, Sunday, he was all over the place, making sure Cam Newton knew he was after him.
Brooks finished the game with five tackles, three sacks, four QB hits and a pass deflection. James Brady put together GIFs of his three sacks, and each one shows a little something different.
The first sack shows Brooks' pure strength. He uses a bullrush to get through the right tackle, but the real strength lay in how he dragged down Newton. Cam Newton is a big boy, and Brooks manhandled him.
The second sack was mostly just being in the right time at the right place. Cam went down and Brooks was the first to get his hand on the Panthers QB. However, I think there is something to be said for how quickly he cut back on the right tackle to get to Cam. Although Cam went down on his own, Brooks' ability to cut back in combined with Tony Jerod-Eddie shedding his own defender is what kept Cam from escaping and scrambling for a gain.
The third sack saw Brooks scramble through a wide open hole in the line. I suspect it was a miscommunication between No. 78 and No. 77. My guess is No. 78 had the assignment, but his hesitation ended any hope of Cam escaping this play. It is worth noting, Brooks benefited from Donte Whitner blitzing on the far right side, because it caused running back Mike Tolbert (No. 35) to hesitate as well. Down goes Cam.
The 49ers defense was on its game Sunday afternoon, and Ahmad Brooks was the top dog of that group. The 49ers will continue working Aldon Smith back into the rotation, but Brooks' performance is a nice little addition. He'll get plenty of chances this weekend when the 49ers face Drew Brees and company. And the 49ers will need a big effort from the pass rush. Give Drew Brees some time, and he'll pick you apart with ease.