The San Francisco 49ers have been gashed for big yardage after DT Justin Smith was injured on Dec. 16th against the New England Patriots, and he is unlikely to play in the season finale against the Arizona Cardinals due to his partially torn left triceps.
Moving forward after the finale, his status for the playoffs is uncertain as well. He could either miss some or all of the post-season. Not good either way.
Despite the glaring loss on defense, Patrick Willis thinks the 49ers can still be a great defense without their All-Pro tackle.
“You can’t really put into words what he means to this defense,” Willis said, via the Associated Press.
“We most certainly miss him, and hopefully we’ll get him back for the playoffs.”
“But we have a great defense, and I truly believe that. When you have what we have on our defense, we should be able to go out there and display that each time.
Starting from this Sunday, we have to make sure we go out and do that on a consistent basis and play like the defense we know we’re capable of playing like.”
It'll be a wait and see approach on Smith, but if the past two weeks have been any indication, San Francisco may not get too far in the post-season. When Smith went out early in the 3rd quarter, the Patriots proceeded to pick apart the 49ers defense for four straight touchdowns to make a game out of a first half blowout.
Last week in Seattle is an even better gauge at just how this defense looks without Smith. Their 42-13 blowout loss to Seattle was the worst beating head coach Jim Harbaugh took in his two seasons with the team.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio doesn't see the absence of Smith as the reason why the defense looked so bad.
“He’s a great player, one of the best defensive players in the NFL, and anytime you lose one of those guys it does have an adverse effect on you,” Fangio said.
“But I didn’t think the problems we’ve had, the last game in particular, were because of Justin not being there. We could have had five Justin Smiths. That wasn’t the issue. We didn’t play good, didn’t coach good, and those guys just whipped us.”