By Len Pasquarelli
92.9 The Game/NFL Reporter
New Orleans – Of the several mano-a-mano matchups that could determine the outcome of Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, it’s worth watching the battle that figures to take place when San Francisco cornerback Carlos Rogers and Baltimore wide receiver Anquan Boldin are aligned against each other in the slot.
Or perhaps when Rogers, arguably the 49ers’ premier cover defender, is lined up against Boldin and doesn’t cover him.
And instead blitzes.
“I’ve probably blitzed more this year than ever before in my career,” Rogers told 92.9 The Game on Tuesday. “I like it a lot. It allows me to get after people, to create another way of (influencing) the passing game.”
With only one legitimate sack threat on the roster, San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has attempted at times this season to manufacture a pass rush to augment the 19 ½ sacks rung up by linebacker Aldon Smith. And with Smith now having been held sackless in five straight contests – he had never gone more than two games without a quarterback kill until his current drought – Fangio could dial up more blitzes to get after Ravens’ pocket passer Joe Flacco.
Which is fine with Rogers.
The eight-year veteran almost always lines up in the slot on passing downs, with the conventional cornerback spots covered by Tarell Brown and No. 3 corner Chris Culliver. In past years, Rogers, who posted a career-best six interceptions in 2011 and was chosen for his first Pro Bowl appearance, spent third-and –long chasing slot receivers like Boldin around the field. Now he chases quarterbacks at times.
Rogers, 31, had just one sack, the lone one of his career, during the regular season. By unofficial count, though, he has hit the quarterback 8-10 times. Suffice it to say, Rogers has been more disruptive than his sack numbers indicate. Reflective of how much he has been utilized on the blitz is that he authored only one interception and seven passes defensed. Both numbers are his lowest since ’07. Over the previous four seasons, Rogers averaged 16 ½ passes defensed.
The former Auburn standout isn’t especially big, but he is explosive attacking the pocket out of the slot-corner position. And Rogers does a good job of disguising his blitzes, often delaying his forays into the backfield.
“I like it because it forces the (offensive) tackle to make a decision,” Rogers said. “It’s like the blocker is thinking, ‘Is he coming or isn’t he?’ It’s fun for me. It’s a little bit difference that what I’ve done in the past. It’s a different look..”
What hasn’t been fun for Baltimore opponents in the playoffs has been attempting to corral Boldin, arguably one of the most physical wide receivers in the league. In three postseason contests, Boldin has 16 receptions and three touchdown catches. That’s only one fewer TD catch than Boldin managed in the regular season. Fourteen of the 16 catches have resulted in first downs.
In the NFC championship game, Rogers was matched up at times with Roddy White or Julio Jones of Atlanta. But neither of the Falcons’ stars, while both very physical, align much in the slot. So the look will be a bit different for Rogers.
And he hopes, too, to provide the Ravens and Flacco with a different look.
“There’s a little cat-and-mouse (aspect) to it,” Rogers said. “The (threat of the) blitz has added a new twist to my game.”
Photo Credit: Getty Images Sport/ Jim Rogash