Three and Out: Crabtree's progress, Brock's history, Whitner's hits
Tramaine Brock leads the 49ers with five interceptions, but his season will be better remembered this pass defended against Atlanta. (USATSI)
SANTA CLARA -- Tramaine Brock might be soft-spoken off the field, but you would never know by watching him play football.
The 49ers' fourth-year cornerback from tiny Belhaven University (Jackson, Miss.) celebrates pass-breakups on third downs with imaginary punts -- just to remind the opposition it’s time to kick the ball back to the 49ers. He is often seen jawing with opposing wide receivers. And Brock showed some MMA skills Monday night with his legal body slam of Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas.
It’s difficult to overlook what Brock has done this season since replacing Tarell Brown in the starting lineup. The door opened for Brock when Brown sustained an internal ribs injury Nov. 13 against the New Orleans Saints. And Brock has not allowed the 49ers' coaching staff to even consider putting Brown back into the starting lineup.
Brock leads the 49ers with five interceptions, and his play Monday night enabled linebacker NaVorro Bowman to turn in one the most memorable plays in Candlestick Park history in the playoff-clinching victory over the Falcons.
“It feels good to be a part of it,” Brock said. “Whatever they want to call it, it doesn’t matter to me. We got the ‘W.’ We got the win. We’re playoff-bound. It helped the team out, and that’s what I try to do with my play.”
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio called “Max Zero” -- a seven-man blitz the 49ers have used only a handful of times the entire season. The 49ers were desperate for a big play. The Falcons trailed by three points and had moved to the San Francisco 10-yard line after recovering an onside kick.
Brock lined up 7 or 8 yards off the line of scrimmage against Douglas, who was split out wide to the left side of the Falcon’s offensive formation. Brock showed tremendous quickness at the snap of the ball to get into position to prevent Douglas from making a clean catch on the quick slant.
Douglas had already caught two slants on Brock earlier in the game, and Brock said he knew Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan would have to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid being sacked.
“It was cover-zero, so we were going to get pressure,” Brock said. “He didn’t really drop back or anything. He opened up and threw. The ball was coming out and we had pressure. So I followed my instincts and played my technique.”
When Brock got to the ball, he fought to dislodge it. The ensuing struggle provided enough time for Bowman to be in the right spot when Brock was able to wrestle it out of Douglas' possession.
“(Brock) has a hard job on that play,” Fangio said. “He basically has the receiver by himself. And he might pick up some help from NaVorro; he might not. He doesn’t know that. NaVorro did his job and came back out and was there.”
Brock has been there, too. And he figures to be around for awhile. Even before his first start of the season on Nov. 25 against Washington, the 49ers wisely rewarded Brock with a four-year, $14 million contract extension last month to virtually ensure he remains as a starter next season and beyond.