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Aldon Smith must perform as a big-time game-changer against New England
The one thing that has reduced Brady’s success over the years is a dominant and consistent pass rush. While it applies to most quarterbacks, collapsing the pocket, taking Brady off his spot and knocking him to the ground is the formula for overcoming his deadly effectiveness.
Luckily for Brady, he has the luxury of a stout pass-blocking corps in front of him. The Patriots rank No. 5 overall with just 20 sacks allowed on the season.
(For perspective, San Francisco has given up nearly double that total with 38.)
Worse yet for the 49ers pass-rushers, the actual offensive line has only surrendered 17 sacks. Backup tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and Brady himself are responsible for the remaining three, according to PFF.
This unit is certainly impenetrable at times. But that doesn’t mean it is without weaknesses.
Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer has surrendered four sacks, while blind-side protector Nate Solder has given up three and 30 additional QB pressures. Yet, where Brady is most vulnerable is up the middle, where center Ryan Wendell has allowed a team-high five sacks.
Matchup-wise, Justin Smith must occupy Solder so Aldon Smith can utilize his patented stunt move to the inside. J. Smith can also put pressure on Brady by breaking down the middle of the Patriots’ O-line by himself. Aldon could then follow suit by speed- and/or bull-rushing the left tackle in a multi-directional attack.
We’ve also seen Aldon line up over right tackle to present a different look, with each Smith completely devouring opposite sides of the line en route to the quarterback.
And in case Fangio wants to implement an occasional blitz or two, both Willis and Bowman are equipped to power through the middle of the offensive front. Brooks, for his part, could break off from coverage as an additional rusher and pursue Brady from the right if he gets safety help or if fellow linebackers rotate over.
At the end of the day, however, the 49ers coaching staff will not make the same mistake as Houston by allowing Brady to dissect man coverage across the board. It will rely on generating pressure from four or fewer pass-rushers as it has done all year.
But what has been used all year must be at its most effective against the Patriots. Brady is simply too good without a constant disruptive pass rush in his face.
For the 49ers to emerge victorious on Sunday, it’s got to get real nasty in the trenches.
And real nasty for one Tom Brady.
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