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Sports

December 15, 2012

Patriots pose severe test for 49ers' defense

(Continued)

The two-time MVP quarterback is having another brilliant season with 29 touchdown passes and four interceptions. He’s been remarkably consistent, completing at least 60 percent of his passes in every game, and been sacked only 20 times.

But here comes Smith.

“I face a bunch of good pass rushers,” Patriots left tackle Nate Solder said. “It seems like every week it’s a top pass rusher. So I guess that’s the excitement of playing in the NFL.”

Smith was drafted with the seventh pick in 2011, just four spots before Watt, and both have made powerful impacts. But Monday night, Watt was held without a sack for only the third time this season after getting six in his previous three games.

What worked against the Texans, though, may not work against the 49ers.

“They’re different schemes and different players,” Brady said. “I think they both rush the passer well. I think they’re both good in coverage. That’s why you win a lot of games, because you’re really fundamentally sound in all of those areas. But in terms of style, they are very different teams. But it’s equally as big of a challenge for us.”

For the 49ers, too. They can’t focus too much on the passing game, not with Ridley leading the NFL’s seventh best running game with 1,082 yards.

So too much pressure on the quarterback can be a bad thing.

“Any team that just goes out there and blitzes away is going to get blown out,” San Francisco safety Donte Whitner said. “You can’t do that. You have to mix it up. Any quarterback that’s this good — that’s an A-plus at the helm — you have to mix some things. Everybody knows that you can’t go out there and do one thing. You have to do multiple things. With our personnel and our scheme, I believe that allows us to do it.”

There’s no better test of that than the Patriots.

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