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2012 Plays of the Year: Sacks

Posted by Alex Espinoza on February 19, 2013 – 3:33 PM

We need your help in selecting the top plays from the 2012 season. We’re asking our Faithful fans to choose the top takeaway, touchdown, sack, big play and biggest hit of the season. Next, the winning five plays (one from each category), will move on to the championship round to determine 49ers.com’s “Top Play of 2012.”

Watch our “Top 5” video highlights on the best plays for each category, then vote in the poll section of the corresponding blog post to see which top play will reach the championship.

Help us crown the top play of 2012 by choosing your favorite sack from this past season. You can vote for your favorite sack up until Thursday at noon. Let’s take a look at the five nominees.

1. Carlos Rogers’ First Career Sack vs. the Green Bay Packers

With a front seven like the 49ers have, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio doesn’t need to dial up many blitzes from the secondary.

But in Week 1 at Green Bay, Fangio sent Carlos Rogers from the right side of the line and he went untouched, delivering a blindside sack of reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers. Not only did it mark the first sack of Rogers’ eight-year career, but it was also the only sack by a 49ers defensive back all season.

Rogers’ big hit came on a 3rd-and-11 in Green Bay’s first drive of the season opener, forcing a punt on the next play. The 49ers would go on to win 30-22 behind a strong defensive effort, one sparked by Rogers’ high-energy play.

2. Aldon Smith’s 5.5 sacks on MNF vs. the Chicago Bears

Jason Campbell probably doesn’t have fond memories of the evening of Nov. 19. As the quarterback of the Bears, Campbell was pummeled repeatedly by linebacker Aldon Smith, who set a “Monday Night Football” and 49ers single-game record with 5.5 sacks.

Smith already had a history of showing up on the Monday night stage, posting 4.5 sacks in his first two contests, but he blew those performances out of the water with an all-time great effort. It didn’t matter if he came from the left side or the right side, Smith was going to get to the quarterback.

The marquee outing highlighted Smith’s 19.5-sack regular season, which eventually earned him first-team All-Pro honors and the first Pro Bowl invite of his career. It also proved to be a big reason for the team’s 32-7 win over the Bears, who entered the contest with a 7-2 record.

3. Ray McDonald’s No-Helmet Sack vs. the New England Patriots

Tom Brady and the Patriots had scored touchdowns on each of their four previous possessions, but Ray McDonald and the 49ers had enough.

After watching their 31-3 lead evaporate into a 31-31 tie, the 49ers took the lead back with a Michael Crabtree touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Week 15 matchup at New England. The defense made sure the Patriots didn’t make another comeback.

Facing a 2nd-and-10 at midfield with about five minutes left to go in a 38-31 game, Brady dropped back looking to find a receiver. Instead, he was greeted by McDonald, who lost his helmet at the line of scrimmage but still brought down the future Hall of Fame quarterback in the backfield. Following Ricky Jean Francois’ sack on the next play, the Patriots were forced to punt and ultimately kept at bay as the 49ers claimed a 41-34 win.

4. Patrick Willis Sacks Aaron Rodgers vs. the Green Bay Packers

Throughout the season, the 49ers defense showed a penchant for clamping down after halftime.

Patrick Willis showed the 49ers Faithful as much in the final home game of the year, a 45-31 win over Green Bay in the NFC Divisional Round. San Francisco held a slim 24-21 lead at intermission, but Rodgers and the potent Packers offense started with the ball in the second half.

Willis put an end to any early Green Bay momentum on third down of the opening drive in the third quarter, when he bull-rushed his way past Packers fullback John Kuhn and dragged down Rodgers for a 9-yard loss to force a punt. Green Bay struggled to get anything going the rest of the way. The visitors were outscored 21-10 in the second half.

5. Ahmad Brooks’ 3rd-Down Sack vs. the Baltimore Ravens

It’s never a good thing to leave Ahmad Brooks unblocked if you’re an opposing offense. In a flash, you’re quarterback will likely be down on the turf.

That’s exactly what happened in Super Bowl XLVII, in the midst of San Francisco’s comeback bid in the second half. The 49ers were starting to gain momentum, as the previous drive ended with a 31-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Michael Crabtree which cut his team’s deficit to 28-13.

Joe Flacco had already shown a knack of getting out of tough quarterback pressures up to that point, but he had no chance on a 3rd-and-10 from his own 17-yard line. Brooks raced around the right side of the line untouched before spearing Flacco in the back and forcing a punt, one which was eventually returned 32 yards by Ted Ginn Jr. to set up a two-play touchdown drive.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Aldon Smith for winning with nearly 53% of the vote!

Posted in Announcements | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “2012 Plays of the Year: Sacks”

  1. By phatalerror on Feb 20, 2013 | Reply

    I really liked the no-helmet sack by Ray McDonald, and Smith’s 5.5 sack performance was highly commendable even if against a mediocre offensive line that included a 49ers’ cast-off from the previous free agent round.

    However, the Ahmad Brooks sack was a reminder that the 49ers’ defense as a whole played very well against a Super Bowl Baltimore Ravens offense that had put up four touchdowns each against the Patriots and the Broncos in their previous two post-season games.

    It’s a shining moment of a complete defensive effort that will be maligned for years to come, but was hardly at the heart of the 49ers loss that Super Bowl evening.

  2. By Dan on Feb 22, 2013 | Reply

    Ray McDonald’s No-Helmet sack with Ricky Jean Francois’ follow up sack.

    This was a statement made loud and clear. Up to this point, the toughness of 49ers was still being debated by many skeptics. The Niners went into a hostile environment, against a solid football team, and silenced all the critics by outplaying the Patriots.

    McDonald’s sack showed an attitude of toughness that can’t be debated.
    It’s more than one sack. It’s clear evidence of roster depth, talent, team discipline, and sound coaching…. Whether it be the first team defense or the next man up.

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