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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was never able to get comfortable.
He was pressured, hit, sacked, knocked down and chased around the entire game, as the Ravens defense dominated the 49ers up front, tying a single-game franchise record with nine sacks.
“There were times I felt like they were a step ahead of us,” Smith said.
That was the Ravens’ plan all along, as an impressive defensive showing helped the Ravens take down the 49ers 16-6 Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
“We knew coming into this game tonight that we had to dominate their offensive line up front,” defensive end Cory Redding said. “And we took that as a huge challenge.”
The pressure on Smith came from every direction, as he was sacked by a linebacker, defensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback and safety.
Terrell Suggs notched three sacks, Redding had 2.5, Haloti Ngata had two, Tom Zbikowski had one and Ladarius Webb had a half sack.
San Francisco simply had no answer for the Ravens’ pass rush.
“Guys were just feeling the energy, looking at the pass game and getting around the edge,” Redding said.
Getting to the quarterback started with shutting down 49ers running back Frank Gore, who came into Thursday night’s game as the NFL’s seventh leading rusher. Gore carried 14 times for 39 yards, an average of 2.8 yards per carry.
With Gore struggling to find success on the ground, the Ravens were able to key on the pass rush.
“That’s the beauty of stopping the run,” Redding said. “When you do that, you can pin your ears back and rush the passer.
“We’ve got guys that can just get out there and just get after the ball, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Smith finished the day 15-of-24 passing for 140 yards and one interception. He didn’t complete a pass longer than 20 yards, and was intercepted for just the fifth time this season.
“The front seven was working, making our jobs easy,” said Webb, who had the game’s lone interception. “If the front seven keeps playing the way they played, then you’ll see more games like this.”
Smith had been sacked 21 times coming into the game, which ranked him in the middle of the pack in the NFL, and the Ravens defense was fifth best in the NFL at getting to the opponent’s quarterback.
With Thursday’s nine-sack performance, the Ravens now lead the NFL with 38 sacks on the season.
Before the Ravens’ game against Cincinnati, Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano said that he needed to start sending more blitzes to allow the defense to get to the quarterback. Since then, the Ravens have come up with 11 sacks in the last two games.
“It was a collective effort,” Suggs said. “When teams are doing it together they become scary.”