San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith put together a strong performance on Sunday, finishing the game with two sacks and six tackles. Smith entered the season reportedly as healthy as he has been since tearing his triceps muscle back in late 2012.
Smith had surgery after the season, but then injured his shoulder heading into the 2013 season. He played through the injury and then had surgery early this the offseason. He was a limited participant throughout training camp, but it would appear he is looking pretty good.
James put together some GIFs of Smith's work on Sunday. This first sack was a key one down at the goal line, as it put the Cowboys into third and long, and eventually led to a field goal instead of a touchdown. This one comes thanks in large part to a complete whiff by the left tackle.
This second sack shows off Smith's athleticism. He is lined up at right defensive tackle, and we see him come around on the twist. The right tackle is sufficiently distracted by Aaron Lynch that he doesn't realize Smith is coming around until it is too late. He speeds around the edge and drops Romo.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was on KNBR earlier this morning, and he talked about the disappointment in the pass rush. Justin Smith had a strong day, and Aaron Lynch managed some pressure here and there, but otherwise, Tony Romo had a lot of time in the pocket.
Thankfully, Romo was kind enough to pass the ball to the 49ers instead of his own teammates. You'll be shocked to know that not all quarterbacks are willing to do this. The 49ers face Jay Cutler this week, and he can also be a turnover machine at times, but he remains incredibly dangerous.
I'm sure the 49ers will go back to the drawing board in certain respects. Corey Lemonier got additional work in place of Aldon Smith, handling nickel work while Dan Skuta was the base outside linebacker. Lemonier was not necessarily invincible on Sunday, but he struggled quite a bit. And considering Ahmad Brooks struggled outside of his one sack, the 49ers will need to figure some things out. I do think we continue to see a decent amount of Aaron Lynch. He got 21 snaps on Sunday, and while I don't expect a big increase in that number, I do think we'll continue to see him on a regular basis.
Speaking of Lynch, James put together a pair of GIFs of him as well. Lynch had a tipped pass on the day, which is basically to be expected at this point.
He also brought key pressure on Romo's end zone interception. Jason Witten initially chips him, leaving him for DeMarco Murray. It is basically no contest as Lynch has little trouble shedding Murray and forcing Romo outside the pocket. The actual pick was just an awful decision, but Lynch's rush put Romo in a situation where he had to think fast.