Friday, October 3, 2008

Patriots wary of 49ers' speed on defense

Left tackle Matt Light said this morning that blocking for Matt Cassel hasn't been much different than blocking for Tom Brady; though Cassel has scrambled eight times for 25 yards this season, the Patriots' offensive line hasn't changed anything about its protection to accomodate the new face in the backfield.

"No, I never worry about where he's at," Light said. "It doesn't change what I do, or how we do what we do."

What might change what they do, though, is that threat San Francisco defensive end Justin Smith (right) poses from the outside. Smith has two sacks and a team-best 15 quarterback hurries in his first season with the 49ers after seven years with the Cincinnati Bengals; he had six tackles and one pass breakup when the Patriots played the Bengals last season.

"He's a guy that plays with a lot of speed coming off the edge, a lot of speed and power," Light said. "He's a very strong guy. The guy has played in this league for eight years, and he's very experienced in what he does."

Said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, "He's a very instinctive player -- the interception he had against Detroit came when he read the screen, pulled off the rush and made a very athletic play on the ball. He's quick; he's got a real good motor. He comes hard all the time. A lot of times, you see the start of the play and you think, 'Well, he's not going to be a factor on this play.' But he just outworks his opponent and hustles to the ball, hustles to the back side, makes plays on second and third effort."

That's indicative of the way the entire 49ers defense plays, and that'll impact the way the Patriots run the ball as well as the way they protect against the pass rush.

"If there's one thing about that defense in general, it's that those guys are very fast," running back LaMont Jordan said. "You're not going to beat them running east-west. To beat them, you have to go north-south. Reggie Bush pretty much was trying to east-west last week, and it didn't work out, so I think we have to take that and realize that the defense is very fast and they all know how to get to the ball."

Jordan, by the way, was a 49er fan growing up. But when a reporter asked him which 49er running back he admired most, he had a surprising answer:

"You know what? I grew up watching quarterbacks. I thought, all my life, I was going to be a quarterback, so I grew up watching the Elways, the Montanas, the Warren Moons of the world. I'm actually a Jeff George fan. Bledsoe, Marino, those guys. I was never big, growing up, on paying attention to running backs. ...

"It was probably 12th year in high school, when all the colleges were coming to look at me at running back, and I realized that to be successful at quarterback, you have to be at least about 6 feet and I was done growing at that point. Even to this day, I have a great deal of respect for quarterbacks; Brady, even before I came here, that's my No. 1 quarterback. I like watching Peyton do his thing. I like watching quarterbacks do their job."

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