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Notebook: Smith Leads the Charge on MNF

Posted Nov 19, 2012

It was a night to forget for the left side of the Chicago Bears offensive line. Film study, without question, will be tough to review Tuesday morning.

That’s because San Francisco 49ers second-year linebacker Aldon Smith had a dominant, career-best performance against the Chicago Bears on “Monday Night Football.”

Not only was it the best pass-rushing effort by a 49ers player in the national showcase game, it was the best performance by any pass-rusher in Monday night history.

Smith totaled a single-game, career-high 5.5 sacks against the Bears, the most sacks in the history of MNF. It was an effort that stood out as one of the best individual performances in a 32-7 win for the 49ers.

With Smith putting backup Bears quarterback Jason Campbell under constant pressure, the visiting team was held to 143 yards of offense (85 rushing, 58 passing). It was the second lowest total of yards in the NFL this season.

And with Smith causing a ruckus for much of the night, the feared pass-rushing linebacker took the league’s lead in sacks, passing fellow 2011 draft class member Von Miller at the top of the league’s sack standings with 15.0 on the year.

“Aldon Smith was very key in today’s win,” wide receiver Michael Crabtree noted. “He was amazing.”

Smith entered the game with 4.5 sacks in his previous two Monday night outings. He surpassed that number in just one matchup against Chicago’s offensive line. He now has 10.0 sacks in three MNF appearances.

The disruptive play started on the first defensive series of the game for the 49ers.

Smith ended Chicago’s first drive with a third-down bull-rush on left tackle J’Marcus Webb that led to a sack of Jason Campbell for a 10-yard loss. Smith beat Webb again later in the second quarter and picked up his third sack of Campbell at the 2-minute warning.

“I was hoping to go out there and make some plays,” Smith said after the game. “I didn’t sense that I was going to go out there and get a bunch of sacks, but I wanted to go out there and make some plays.”

Smith wasn’t alone.

The 49ers defense bottled up the Bears for most of Monday night. Chicago crossed the 50-yard line for the first time of the game with less than eight minutes remaining in the third quarter and only scored on a 13-yard touchdown pass when trailing by 27.

It was hard to be productive with little time to throw. Chicago’s 58 passing yards were the fewest given up by San Francisco since allowing 22 yards to the St. Louis Rams on Jan. 3, 2010.

Even Smith’s offensive teammates were amazed with the remarkable performance turned in by last year’s No. 7 overall pick.

“One of the best at the position, if not the best,” said the 49ers all-time rushing leader Frank Gore. “He works hard every day and he’ll go get them.”

Like Chicago’s opening possession of the first half, Smith dropped Campbell on the first drive of the second half.

He added another sack and a split sack with teammate Justin Smith in the second half to finish with 5.5 on the game, .5 shy of tying Fred Dean’s single-game franchise sack record previously set on Nov. 13, 1983 vs. New Orleans.

Smith didn’t set that record, but now can lay claim to having the most sacks in consecutive season by any player in team history (Chris Doleman held the record with 27.0 sacks from 1997-98).

The young linebacker now has 29 sacks in 36 career games.

“I really just try to make people respect my power,” said Smith who utilized a bull-rush on his early sacks. “I don’t think I’m one of the bigger linebackers or ends, but I want people to know there’s some power here, too.”

Now, Smith’s standing as one of the league’s best pass rushers isn’t only certain - it’s becoming historic.

Smith’s 29 career sacks are the third-highest total in league history for players in their first two seasons. Hall of Famers Reggie White and Derrick Thomas lead Smith with 31 and 30 sacks, respectively.

Rogers Reunites with Campbell

Carlos Rogers and Campbell were close friends going into Monday night and will stay friends afterwards. Rogers, however, leveled his former college and professional teammate with a huge open-field hit on the Bears quarterback who was running up the middle of the field on scramble.

“At that time, I thought he was going to run me over,” Rogers explained of the hit. “Being that we’re friends, we’d have something to talk about, so I wasn’t going to let that happen.

It was good competing against him. Maybe we’ll see them again.”

Akers Bounces Back

David Akers missed a game-winning overtime kick against the St. Louis Rams last week, but bounced back with two makes on Monday Night. Akers connected on 32 and 37-yard field goals in the first half, and another 32-yard make in the fourth quarter giving him at least one made field goal in every regular season game of his 49ers career.

“It was a little bit better day than last week,” Akers said. “A good way to get back on the horse.”

The veteran kicker was also pleased by the coverage units who matched up with former teammate and special teams standout Blake Costanzo.

“Blake was making plays,” Akers said. “We knew he was a great player and we knew we needed to focus on him as well. It was a great win on special teams. I thought Andy (Lee) punted the ball great and the coverage units did a great job.”

According to Akers, the 49ers use more directional kicks than normal.

“The ultimate job against Devin Hester is not letting him score a touchdown,” Akers explained. "We went to a pop-kick, we went to directional and I don’t normally do that. We just tried to get their returns out of synch a little bit.”

It worked. Hester was held in check for most of the night, highlighted by a 9-yard loss on a second-half punt return. Both Anthony Dixon and Tramaine Brock did an excellent job of tackling the talented returner for a loss.

Tonight’s Takeaways

The Bears entered with the league's most takeaways and best turnover differential, but it was the 49ers who recorded the only turnovers of the game. Tarell Brown recorded his first interception of the season and 10th of his career. In the second half, Dashon Goldson record his third interception of the year and 14th of his career.

The 49ers are now the only team this season to not turn the ball over against the Bears.

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