SANTA CLARA — This afternoon in the locker room I asked Donte Whitner about the Niners run defense, and here’s what he said.
Q: Is this the best run defense you’ve ever seen? And what makes it so special?
WHITNER: I think it is the best run defense I’ve ever seen. My perspective is like this: I came from Buffalo last year. We gave up I think almost eight two hundred yard rushers. Eight different rushers with two hundred yards. Do you understand that? I think that’s some type of record. We were up there in rushing touchdowns, too (they gave up 18), so to have a rush defense like this who won’t allow a hundred yard rusher, who’s physical and who won’t give up rushing touchdowns – that’s tremendous, it’s historical, it’s never been done. I would say that if we do go the entire football season without giving up a rushing touchdown then you have to say this is the best rushing defense to ever play in the National Football League collectively as a defense. We go into football games saying that no running back can run the football on us, we’re going to force the quarterback to beat us and we’re going to make them one-dimensional. We’ve been able to do that all year, and that’s why we’re 9-2. So, if we can continue to do that, we’ll be in pretty good position when playoff time rolls around.
Q: Is it just the perfect combination of players and coaches, or is it something else?
WHITNER: No. The game of football on the defensive side of the ball – you can have the perfect play on offense, but if you have a defender that’s determined and really wants to make that tackle, really wants to beat that block, really wants in the opposition’s backfield, then our run defense is going to be good. If you have guys that are just going out there and saying, “I’m going to just do my job and that’s it, I’m not going to do extra, I’m not going to help cover for the next guy,” then you’re going to have holes in the defense. We have a bunch of guys that when they get up there on the defensive line and the linebackers, they have guys coming to block them and they’re just beating blocks, and that’s how you do it. It’s not about the scheme, it’s about the will to beat the block and make the tackle. Do you have it or don’t you? From our team’s perspective, when they go in there they talk to the offensive line and they’re saying, “Do you have the will to get your blocks, sustain them and dominate the defender?” It goes hand in hand. So, I think we’ve been doing a good job of beating blocks and being determined and getting to the ball carrier, and that’s why our rush defense has been so good, because we’re not putting eight in the box. The majority of the time we’re keeping six, seven guys in the box and still stopping the run.
Q: So you’re saying this defense has a special, extraordinary will?
WHITNER: Yes, it’s our will. It’s our will to want to get the guy on the ground, to want to beat the block and to be physical. It’s the will to win and I think we have it.