49ers' Aldon Smith seeking sacks record against Tom Brady
Smith is three sacks short of the NFL record, but he'll have to bring down Tom Brady, who has been difficult for opponents to get to this season.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As Aldon Smith chases down the NFL record for sacks, his specialty becomes of particular significance this week when the San Francisco 49ers face New England and the NFL's top-ranked offense.
The Patriots have been vulnerable most often when opponents put quarterback Tom Brady on his back.
Nobody in the league has been better at that this season than Smith. The NFL leader with 19 ½ sacks, he enters Sunday night's game three sacks short of Michael Strahan's season record after recording at least one in seven consecutive games and 14 in San Francisco's past six games.
Brady has been sacked seven times in New England's three losses and only 13 times in the team's 10 wins. How much pressure Smith and San Francisco's second-ranked defense can put on Brady could be the key to ending the Patriots' seven-game winning streak, as well as gaining a critical advantage in the 49ers' race with Seattle for the NFC West title.
But pressuring Brady hasn't been easy. Only once during New England's past eight games has Brady been sacked more than once.
"It's a big challenge to put pressure on Tom Brady when he's so good with every detail of his game," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday. "Everything is so refined. There's not a lot of tips you can get or clues, even when he's in the shotgun."
Smith has been up for nearly every pass-rushing challenge this year, particularly in prime-time games.
He had a career-high 5 ½ sacks the last time the 49ers played a night game, Nov. 19 against Chicago. Three weeks before that, Smith had two sacks during a Monday night rout of Arizona. Sunday, he'll be coming with everything he has as he attempts to bring down Brady and break the record against the NFL's highest-scoring team.
"It's one of the goals I have," Smith said, "and just have to really keep it going, see if I can make that number even better."
ESPN suspends "First Take" host
ESPN announced Friday that it had suspended Rob Parker, a commentator on the network's program "First Take," because of his racially oriented comments about Robert Griffin III, a rookie quarterback for Washington.
During a planned discussion on Thursday's show about whether Griffin, who is black, was a "post-racial figure," Parker, who is also black, asked, "Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?"
Parker added: "He's black; he kind of does his thing. But he's not really down with the cause. He's not one of us."
ESPN did not take any action immediately after the show, which was shown on ESPN2 on Thursday morning. Much later in the day, after the issue had been taken up on various websites, the network issued a statement labeling the comments inappropriate.
On Friday, ESPN released another official statement announcing Parker's suspension.
Around the league
• New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin confirmed that Ahmad Bradshaw will not play Sunday against Atlanta due to lingering knee and foot problems. With the team's second-leading rusher, Andre Brown, out for the season with a broken leg, the Giants will turn to rookie David Wilson and free-agent signees Ryan Torain and Kregg Lumpkin, who was released by Seattle in September.
• Green Bay expects to have linebacker Clay Matthews back in the lineup Sunday after missing the last four games with a hamstring injury.
• Saints linebacker Jon Vilma filed a motion Friday urging a federal judge to reject NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's motion to dismiss the Saints linebacker's defamation lawsuit.
Vilma's motion says Goodell acted with reckless disregard for the truth when basing initial allegations about Vilma on one fired Saints assistant whose testimony has been inconsistent and challenged by other witnesses in the NFL's bounty probe of the Saints.