Smith totaled a career-best 5.5-sack performance, the first of its kind turned in by an NFL player since 2007.
Following the epic performance, the second-year linebacker fielded plenty of messages after the game. It came as no surprise with a national audience witnessing the pass-rushing powerhouse wreak havoc on Bears backup quarterback Jason Campbell.
“Everybody thought I played a pretty good game,” Smith, the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week said on Wednesday. “They were excited about how the game turned out and I got a lot of ‘congratulations’ messages from people.”
New Orleans Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt saw the performance, too. He didn’t necessarily send any congratulatory messages out West, but he did praise the young linebacker in his conference call with Bay Area reporters.
Vitt compared Smith to the late, great Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas.
“You know who he reminds me of?” Vitt asked reporters. “I've got great respect for the player –he reminds me of Derrick Thomas. Watching him with his arm length and the way he can slither, his great get-off – he reminds me of Derrick Thomas. I had Derrick in Kansas City and I'm a great fan of Derrick and that's who Aldon reminds me of. I think that's one of the best compliments I can give him.”
It’s not the first time the two former Big-12 standouts were mentioned in the same sentence.
With Smith registering 29 sacks in 26 career games, best in NFL history, Smith has totaled the third-most sacks in his first two seasons. Ahead of Smith is a pair of Hall of Famers, Reggie White (31) and Thomas (30).
Smith has a ways to go before he reaches Canton, but he’s starting to receive more notoriety as evidenced by his Week 11 NFC Defensive Player of the Week award.
Smith’s in no rush to celebrate the achievement either.
“If I got 10 (sacks) I might be a little big-headed,” he said. “It was a good game, but I could do a lot better.”
When facing the New Orleans Saints this Sunday, Smith will look to sack one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, Drew Brees. When the teams met back in January for the NFL’s Divisional Playoffs, Smith registered one of San Francisco’s three sacks in a 36-32 win.
But before he’s able to get to the respected quarterback who is 5-0 all-time against the 49ers in the regular season, Smith is expecting more attention to come is way.
He’s ready for it, though.
“I feel like teams are going to find ways to slow me down,” Smith said. “I’m going to find a way to beat what they’re trying to do. Sometimes it works like that.”
Smith’s all about setting up opponents.
When examining one of his 5.5 sacks, Smith could be seen switching up his stance at the last second, almost like a right-handed boxer going southpaw to confuse an opponent.
Smith confirmed that was his intent.
“Yeah, just messing with them and it’s really what (stance) I’m feeling – what gets me off the line the best,” he said.
More of Smith’s arsenal is being displayed because of a simple factor.
“Really I’m playing a lot more so you’re seeing it a lot more, it’s there.”
Jim Harbaugh notices it, too.
“Just really excited for him,” the 49ers coach said of his first ever draft pick, selected No. 7 overall in 2011 out of Missouri. “We gave three game balls (on defense) one to Aldon, a shining star in the game.”
Harbaugh continued to discuss his defensive difference-maker in detail.
“I’m not just going to say the sacks, but the sacks were spectacular. He used a lot of different moves to make those sacks, a great bull-rush, great athleticism, great balance – used his arm as a leg one time to stay up – it was really awesome to see.”