Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC West [Print without images]

Monday, November 10, 2008
Cards' Wilson key to containing 49ers' Gore

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

PHOENIX -- The 49ers' expected emphasis on the ground game highlights the matchup between running back Frank Gore and one of the NFL's best run-support safeties.

Adrian Wilson's presence for Arizona can force the Cardinals' opponents to alter their approach. Former Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams, who takes his place in the team's Ring of Honor at halftime tonight, described Wilson this way:

Williams: "I would say he would be a modern-day Kenny Houston, Kenny Easley, Ronnie Lott. Devastating hitter. He is an awesome blitzer as well. You have to account for him if you want your quarterback to remain in the game. ... He is incredibly big. When I was on the field for the Dallas game, I kind of wondered, I said, 'Man, I can't believe I actually played this game.'

"This guy is huge, he can run and he is flexible. He has an the entire package that creates this ability to do what he does. And he's mean."

Gore had a 41-yard touchdown run against the Cardinals in Week 1, but Wilson picked off a pass. The signature play for Wilson this season cost him a $25,000 fine after he knocked out Bills quarterback Trent Edwards. The fear factor is legitimate.

Williams: "Talking with wide receivers during the course of my career, talking with Torry [Holt], talking with Isaac [Bruce], they always want to know where a safety is that hits. It is no joke. It impacts the game. It impacts how many balls are going to be thrown across the middle. It impacts your blocking scheme when you have a guy that is an outstanding blitzer. It changes, potentially, the outcome of the game but it certainly puts an offense on alert. In a subtle way, it gives other guys on the defense an opportunity to maybe take advantage of some one-on-one matchups that they would not have if you don't have an Adrian Wilson on the field."

The 49ers' pass protection has struggled. I'm hoping to count how many times Wilson blitzes and how the 49ers account for him.