The 49ers defense finally looks to be complete after a long offseason that saw less additions and more of an effort to retain the players that made it such a special, effective unit in 2011. San Francisco is gearing up for 2012 and have already put much of last season in their rear view.
However, before that happens, I'd like to share with the faithful some of the best hits by San Francisco defensemen last season.
It was a long season with plenty of ferocity, but in the next eight slides are some of the more memorable punishments that were dished out.
After reviewing the slides, I encourage you to leave your comment below entailing your favorite hit and why.
Week 4 @ Philadelphia Eagles
In this video, we see the Eagles lined up out of the shotgun formation, showing pass. Quarterback Michael Vick received the snap and immediately looked for Jason Avant the whole way. The Eagles were expecting the outside receiver to pull coverage deep while Avant would be open on the short pattern.
Dashon Goldson obviously read the play, crept up and delivered a crushing hit that Avant never saw coming. Goldson was able to get a running start and connect with a limp receiver who was already inferior to him in size.
Week 13 vs. St. Louis Rams
This was a great play.
The Rams were coming out of the shotgun on 3rd-and-4, which is a situation that typically called for the 49ers' rookie and situational pass-rusher, Aldon Smith. On this play, Smith had his nose lined up with the outside shoulder of the left tackle in the 5-technique. As a down lineman, he was basically in a sprinter's stance, which is what he primarily did with Missouri as a collegian.
Smith steamrolled the Rams' tackle, Adam Goldberg, with unstoppable force and carried that momentum into quarterback A.J. Feely.
Week 15 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Aldon Smith's entire Monday Night Football debut was noteworthy, as he put on a clinic against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Smith was attacking Ben Roethlisberger in every which way, even toying with his offensive linemen, particularly Max Starks.
Week 12 @ Baltimore Ravens
The Thanksgiving Harbowl game.
Early in the first quarter, the Ravens were moving the ball down field on the opening drive. On a 2nd-and-10 from the the 49ers' 21, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco took the snap from center, and with pressure and limited receiving options, checked it down to his running back, Ricky Williams.
Patrick Willis looked to be spying, playing zone or had responsibility for the back— regardless, Willis sniffed out the play and blew up Williams almost instantly. Willis just got low and wrapped up, but even with so little room between him and his target, he comes with so much torque.
NFC Divisional Playoffs vs. New Orleans Saints
The 49ers hosted the Saints at Candlestick in the NFC Divisional Playoff Round. On the game's opening drive, the Saints stayed on the field for six-plus minutes and were threatening to score. On 3rd-and-6 from the 49ers' 7-yard line, Drew Brees was flushed out of the pocket by a relentless Aldon Smith.
Brees found his running back, Pierre Thomas, and delivered a strike that very well could have been a touchdown. Fortunately, safety Donte Whitner had the awareness to protect the goal line and buried his shoulder into Thomas. Not only was Thomas stopped in his tracks, preventing the first down or worse, but Thomas coughed up the football and it was recovered by San Francisco.
This hit was a tone-setter for a game that would become an instant classic in NFL history.
Week 5 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Goldson strikes in back-to-back weeks.
This game was a blowout, and the dismantling of Tampa Bay was already well in progress by the third quarter. The 49ers had a 34-3 lead and showed no signs of slowing down. On first down in their own territory, Josh Freeman took the snap from the shotgun and eyed his receiver, Mike Williams, who was coming on a slant.
If you watch closely, Freeman's body is visibly directed toward Williams' area as soon as he receives the snap. Once again, Goldson was watching the quarterback, quickly understood where Williams was going and cut the play off at the head. He is again able to get a running start and when he does, Goldson brings a tremendous amount of force.
This was a major collision.
NFC Divisional Playoffs vs. New Orleans Saints
There wasn't a high quality video available on YouTube featuring the ferocious bull rush Justin Smith put on Jermon Bushrod on this particular play, so I have linked the clip of the play here. It was not a traditional big hit, but the brute strength on display here is unparalleled.
Smith drives Bushrod (6'5" 315 pounds) backward into Drew Brees—and since Smith is tied up and can't get around the tackle quick enough, he reaches over, grabs the collar of Brees' jersey and drops his center of gravity, taking all three men to the ground like a house of cards.
NFC Championship vs. New York Giants
I apologize for the quality of the video, but there was not one to supplement and this hit was too extraordinary to leave out of this prestigious list. This hit was made by backup defensive lineman, Demarcus Dobbs, who was able to earn this such highlight on a special teams effort.
Dobbs is listed as 6'6" 275 pounds, and can move pretty well for his size. He ran down the field and spied Giants safety Tyler Sash, but Sash didn't see him. Sash (6'0" 215 pounds) is significantly smaller than Dobbs, so between that and the velocity Dobbs had from coming downfield, Sash got blown up hard.
This is the definition of a rag doll.
Thanks for viewing some of the greatest hits by the 49ers in 2011. Please comment below and discuss your personal favorites, as I'm sure the selections will vary for different reasons.