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Corey Lemonier's First Sack Leads to Safety

Posted Oct 13, 2013

First-year defenders Corey Lemonier and Eric Reid accounted for two of the team's four turnovers on Sunday, plus a first-half safety.

The last time Corey Lemonier recorded a safety sack – as a teenager at Hialeah High School in Florida – he didn’t tackle the quarterback.

He shoved him out of the back of the end zone.

Lemonier, looking more and more like a man among men in the NFL, recorded three career firsts in his 49ers 32-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon: the sack and the safety, plus a forced fumble.

PHOTO GALLERY: 49ERS VS. CARDINALS

During the Cardinals first series of the second quarter, the rookie outside linebacker beat left tackle Bradley Sowell to bring down quarterback Carson Palmer five yards deep into the end zone. Told that he appeared to one-arm Palmer's back – his left arm was still tangled with Sowell when he charged into and past him and into the end zone – Lemonier asked, “Really? I’ll have to see the replay.

“We pinned ‘em back down there. I got the (offense’s) set I was practicing for. I made the move and made the play.”

This was also the case in the fourth quarter.

Two plays after the 49ers offense's 18-play, 89-yard drive for a game-changing touchdown, Lemonier broke the ball loose from running back Alfonso Smith. Fellow 'backer NaVorro Bowman fell on it at the Cardinals 31-yard line, setting up a 44-yard Phil Dawson field goal and three more points worth of insurance.

“We called a stunt. I ran the stunt, hit my guy,” Lemonier said. “Our goal for this week was to strip the ball, to get two strips off of them, and I was trying to do my part.”

Since Aldon Smith has been absent from the team, Lemonier has done more than his part. Splitting time with relative veteran Dan Skuta at Smith's outside 'backer slot, Lemonier's best previous game was his four-tackle night in Week 4 against the St. Louis Rams.

“He is coming along well," said safety Donte Whitner, one of the defensive unit's outspoken leaders. "From the first day he came in, I could see he is an intelligent guy that wants to work hard. That’s why he’s able to make the plays he made today.

"He has all the mechanics, all the makeup, he has all the talent to be a good pass-rusher in the National Football League. He just has to get more experience and he’ll get better and better.”

Jim Harbaugh agreed.

"Pass rushers in this game are hard to find," the coach said. "It's exciting, seeing him do the job he's doing."

A defense that returned another linebacker Patrick Willis (groin) from injury but lost nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (hamstring) to another early on, managed to create four turnovers overall. That’s 10 takeaways over the past three games, and they’re not coming from one player.

Pair Lemonier’s performance with fellow first-year pro Eric Reid – the safety snagged his third interception in six games – and San Francisco’s rookie class contributed significantly to the team’s third consecutive win.

“We were expected to learn the plays and come out here and do our job,” Lemonier said. “Eric, knowing what he is able to do from LSU, he come in here ready to play. We’re showing the older guys that we’re ready to play.”

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