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49ers notes: Justin Smith is a bulldozer

Published: Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 - 12:00 am

What does Justin Smith call the move in which he drives a 300-plus-pound offensive tackle straight back into the quarterback?

“I call it, ‘I wish I had another move,’” Smith, the 49ers’ veteran defensive lineman, said Wednesday. “It’s all I got.”

That’s not true, as any offensive lineman who has battled Smith will confirm. But Smith’s bulldozer approach has received the most attention in recent years, and it promises to be an asset Sunday against a Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, who is being discussed as an MVP candidate after his performance Monday.

Wilson threw three touchdown passes, finished with a 139.6 passer rating and led his team in rushing yards in a 34-7 rout of the Saints. He was sacked once and routinely thwarted New Orleans’ blitzes.

“A wonderful, wonderful player, competitor,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of Wilson. “Skills of arm talent, mobility. Great field awareness. Understands the scrambling lanes, the escape routes out of the pocket. And then that feel, which only so many quarterbacks have had, to extend plays.”

The 49ers’ defense, meanwhile, is best when Smith and the other linemen can collapse a quarterback’s pocket without any help from blitzers. That’s what Smith did Sunday against the Rams.

In the 49ers’ defensive meeting room, Smith’s signature move is known as a “bludgeon.”

It made its 49ers debut in the 2011 playoffs when Smith shoved 315-pound Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod into quarterback Drew Brees and then took both men to the ground. It returned – twice – on Sunday against St. Louis. In the first quarter, Smith knocked Rams tackle Jake Long into quarterback Kellen Clemens, sending Clemens to the ground, where he was sacked by Ray McDonald.

Why are such moves called bludgeons, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs was asked?

“Because there’s no finesse or sugar-coating it. It’s a me-vs.-you move,” he said. “And Justin’s awesome at it. He’s a strong guy, dedicated to the weight room. And it shows on the field. Once he gets all his momentum going forward, it’s hard to slow him down.”

It’s been nearly a year since Smith suffered the torn left triceps tendon that appeared to sap his strength in the playoffs and especially the Super Bowl. His game against the Rams – for which he received a game ball – seemed to serve notice that his power has returned.

Injury watch – Harbaugh said he wouldn’t rule out starting offensive linemen Joe Staley and Mike Iupati in Sunday’s game, but neither player practiced Wednesday. The two 2012 Pro Bowlers, who make up the left side of the offensive line, are dealing with MCL sprains. Both were on elliptical machines as practice began.

The news is better for the receiving corps.

Neither Michael Crabtree (Achilles’) nor rookie Quinton Patton (foot) are on the injury report. Crabtree played 42 snaps on Sunday, his first game since tearing his Achilles’ on May 21, and there was some question about how he would bounce back from his first outing.

Two other wide receivers, Mario Manningham (knee) and Jon Baldwin (calf) were limited in practice. So were running back Frank Gore, who is dealing with an ankle injury, and cornerback Tarell Brown, who is coming back from a rib injury.


Read Matthew Barrows’ blogs at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320.

Read more articles by Matthew Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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