Posted January 20, 2012 on AP on Fox
(Eds: With AP Photos.) By JOSH DUBOW AP Sports Writer Justin Smith bull-rushed Jermon Bushrod, driving the 315-pound NFL offensive lineman into the backfield as if he were a rag doll, reached over his shoulder and dragged quarterback Drew Brees to the ground to force an incomplete pass. The play in last week's playoff win over New Orleans showcased the skills that have made Smith the leader on the San Francisco defense that has led the 49ers to the NFC championship game against the New York Giants on Sunday. There is the brute strength that allows him to overpower opponents, the athleticism that leads to his big plays and an unmatched intensity and relentlessness that has made Smith one of the most unheralded stars in the game. Coach Jim Harbaugh called Smith the ''toughest player'' he has ever been around in his long career as a player and a coach. ''You talk about 10 out of 10. You can't get any better, can't be any better than 10 out of 10,...

Giants’ O-line must beware of Smith duo

When asked about San Francisco’s Smiths — the 49ers dynamic defensive duo of Justin and Aldon — Giants coach Tom Coughlin only could give a wan smile and rueful chuckle, like a man being audited about the IRS. Several Giants players called Justin Smith the best 3-4 end in football, the...

49ers’ Justin Smith Is Finally in the Spotlight

After playing in just one playoff game in his first 11 seasons, Justin Smith, a leading contender for defensive player of the year, is enjoying leading the 49ers’ defense into the postseason.

Fangio on the 49ers' tradition: 'We've restored that'

After last week's win against the Saints, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he'd placed a picture of Justin Smith on the cover of the defensive notebook during training camp. Along with Smith's picture was "0-1," the Pro Bowl defensive tackle's postseason record during his 11-year...

The IT Factor: 49ers over Giants

Throughout the season and the NFL Playoffs, any discussions about the San Francisco 49ers have mostly centered on their defense. This weekend, San Francisco will host the New York Giants, and once again San Francisco’s defense will be the “it” factor that will determine whether San Francisco advances to the Super Bowl. San Francisco’s heart, passion and determination...

Who Is The San Francisco 49ers' 2011 MVP?

The San Francisco 49ers were 6-10 last season, but this season turned things around recording a 13-3 record. The turnaround came about due to many factors including, a new head coach, improved play at the quarterback position, and a potent defense. While there are many great players on the team, the following is my five candidates for San Francisco’s MVP. Alex Smith: This season...

Ex-Mizzou star Justin Smith inspires 49ers defense

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers didn't wear their heart on their sleeves this season.

Smarter Stats: New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers

NFC Championship Where: Candlestick Park When: Sunday, January 22, 6:30 PM ET The Week 10 matchup between the Giants and 49ers (a 27-20 San Francisco win) was more atypical than indicative when it came to the San Francisco offense. Jim Harbaugh operated one of three NFL offenses that ran more than it passed in 2011 (the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans were the others), but of the...

Bruce Miller: From lost in the huddle to SI cover

Just over five months ago, 49ers rookie fullback Bruce Miller couldn't have guessed he'd be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He was too busy trying to ensure he was on an NFL roster. In a season filled with remarkable stories ? Alex Smith's resurrection and Aldon Smith's emergence among...

NFC Championship: Six 49ers who must step up

Everybody knows the list of usual suspects the 49ers will be relying upon in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game – front-line producers such as Vernon Davis, Frank Gore, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis, the same guys who’ve been doing it all season. But to make it to the Super Bowl, it may come down to what the 49ers get from a handful of complementary players who must step up against the Giants.

5 Underrated Players Left In The Playoffs

Some Players Need More Recognition Aldon Smith: The Rookie Defensive Lineman has been overshadowed by other rookie standouts Marcell Dareus and Von Miller. Smith has been an integral part of the dominant 49ers defensive front. A great player with incredible speed off the ball, Smith can pressure Eli Manning and run down any RB the Giants want to throw at him. After all, after Smith...

Friday Morning Observations: 49ers

As promised, here are my random 49ers observations: - The Niners passing game is better at home in almost every single way: completion percentage, yards per attempt, and touchdowns. Most shockingly, they’ve allowed only 13 sacks at home to 31 (!) on the road. This is most unfortunate for the Giants, as their defense runs on getting after the passer. - But strangely enough, Frank...
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