49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

December 4, 2013
The 'bludgeon' is back: Justin Smith at full strength for showdown with Seattle

justinSmash.jpg

What does Justin Smith call the move in which he drives a 300-plus pound offensive tackle into the quarterback? "I call it, 'I wish I had another move,'" Smith, the 49ers veteran defensive lineman, said Wednesday. "It's all I got."

That's not true, as any offensive linemen who has battled Smith will confirm. But Smith's bulldozer approach has received the most attention in recent years, and it promises to be an asset Sunday against a Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, who is being discussed as an MVP candidate after his performance Monday.

Wilson threw three touchdowns, finished with a 139.6 passer rating and also led his team in rushing yards in the 34-7 route over the Saints. He was sacked once and routinely thwarted New Orleans' blitzes.

"A wonderful, wonderful player, competitor," Jim Harbaugh said of Wilson. "Skills of arm talent, mobility. Great field awareness. Understands the scrambling lanes, the escape routes out of the pocket. And then that feel, which only so many quarterbacks have had that have ever really played the game, to extend plays."

The 49ers' defense, meanwhile, is best when Smith and the other linemen can collapse a quarterback's pocket without any help from blitzers. That's what Smith did Sunday against the Rams.

In the 49ers defensive meeting room, Smith's signature move is known as a 'bludgeon.' It made its 49ers debut in the 2011 playoffs when Smith shoved 315-pound Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod into quarterback Drew Brees and then took both men to the ground. It returned - twice - on Sunday against the Rams. In the first quarter, Smith knocked St. Louis tackle Jake Long into quarterback Kellen Clemens, sending Clemens to the ground where he was sacked by Ray McDonald.

Why are such moves called bludgeons, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs was asked? "Because there's no finesse or sugar-coating it. It's a me-vs.-you move," he said. "And Justin's awesome at it. He's a strong guy, dedicated to the weight room. And it shows on the field. Once he gets all his momentum going forward, it's hard to slow him down."

It's been nearly a year since Smith suffered the torn left triceps tendon that appeared to sap his strength in the playoffs and especially the Super Bowl. His game against the Rams - for which he received a game ball - seemed to serve notice that Smith's power has returned.

Harbaugh said he didn't know if Smith's been returning to form since last year's injury. What's he does know is that the veteran lineman is "is playing really well. He's playing with a lot of strength," Harbaugh said. "He's one of those guys, a rare (guy), that if it was bothering him, if he had less strength you'd never know it or he wouldn't say anything about it. He's a great warrior with amazing perseverance."

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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