While the San Francisco 49ers' offense waited this season for wide receiver Michael Crabtree to become fully healthy after a torn Achilles, the 49ers' defense kept an eye out for outside linebacker Aldon Smith's return as a pass-rushing force. Despite Smith's modest sack total lately, the 49ers say the wait is over. Smith, 24, in his third year out of Missouri, appears back to being one of the most disruptive defensive players in the league after missing five games, and eight starts, because of a DUI arrest early this season. Jim Harbaugh, 49ers coach, is a big fan of the way Smith handled his adversity and came back strong, on and off the field. "I feel very good for Aldon, and he's carried the water, the biggest share, himself," Harbaugh said. "There have been a lot of people that helped. He's got a great family. And he's handling his business. We all tend to forget that the reason we got smart is because we learned from our mistakes. He's been really good as a teammate, and on the field he's been outstanding. "Teams that want to block Aldon Smith one-on-one are whistling Dixie. That's the way he's playing right now. Therefore, he's getting quite a bit of double-team chips, help from the backs and the tight ends, and he's really playing well." The double-teaming cuts into his sack totals. Playing in 11 games, and starting eight, in the regular season, he finished with 8½ sacks, less than half his total last year of 19½, which made him a first-team all-pro. But he had 1½ sacks in the 49ers' playoff opener against Green Bay, and he and his fellow linebackers, particularly Ahmad Brooks (4½ sacks in two playoff games), are again huge factors in the 49ers' playoff success. "I'm playing good right now. We're all playing good," says Smith, one-fourth of probably the best linebacker unit in NFL. "We've just got to keep it going." Smith, 6-4, 265, expects more double-teaming against the Seahawks. They've done it before. "If it happens, it happens," he says. "I'm ready to deal with it and get pressure on the quarterback. I think it's a good matchup for me. I've had some success in the past. We've had some success in the past. But with a guy like (Seattle quarterback) Russell Wilson, it's important that everybody's getting pressure on him and we work as a team with our rush, making sure he doesn't get away and make those big plays." Throughout his absence and upon his return, Smith was supported by teammates.
Aldon Smith back to being a force for 49ers
USA Today | Jan 19