Falcons-49ers matchup No. 3: Holmes vs. Smith

Falcons-49ers matchup No. 3: Lamar Holmes vs. Aldon Smith

Falcons-49ers matchup No. 3: Holmes vs. Smith
December 21, 2013, 10:15 am
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Atlanta Falcons left tackle Lamar Holmes, ranks 77th of 78 qualifying offensive tackles in the league. (USATSI)

Editor's note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Falcons matchups to watch Monday, 5:40 p.m., at Candlestick Park.

49ers OLB Aldon Smith vs. Falcons LT Lamar Holmes

Tale of the tape
Smith (99): 6 foot 4, 265 pounds, third season, Missouri
Holmes (76): 6 foot 6, 333 pounds, second season, Southern Mississippi

Not that Aldon Smith isn’t also a dominant pass-rusher on Sundays, mind you, but he’s been particularly impressive under the lights of Monday Night Football.

In four Monday games, Smith has 12 sacks. He ranks tied with Dwight Freeney for the lead among active players. It has taken 13 games for Freeney to register his 12 sacks on Monday nights.

[RELATED: 49ers heavy favorites vs. Falcons on Monday night]

Smith figures to be a handful for Atlanta Falcons left tackle Lamar Holmes, who ranks 77th of 78 qualifying offensive tackles in the league, according to the grading system of Pro Football Focus. (By the way, the 49ers face No. 78 next week, Arizona tackle Bradley Sowell.)

Holmes has struggled as a run-blocker and as a pass-protector this season for the Falcons (4-10). Holmes has surrendered nine sacks and 44 hurries while being responsible for quarterback Matt Ryan’s blind side.

Smith is healthy and he’s playing extremely well. Monday will be his seventh game back after missing five games to take a voluntary leave of absence to enter into treatment for substance abuse. Smith is healthy and feeling strong.

“I’m good,” he said. “I’m good.”

[RELATED: The hidden relics of Candlestick]

And as a pass-rusher, he’s been spectacular. He has four sacks in his past four games, including a two-sack, six-hurry performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.

“I think that’s the most consistent I’ve been in since I’ve been back, so the more plays, the more times to make plays,” Smith said.

Smith has 42 career sacks in 41 games. He has the second-most sacks in the NFL since the 2011 season, ranking one sack behind Minnesota’s Jared Allen. And Smith’s ascending play is a major reason the 49ers feel good about the defense heading into the final two regular-season games and into the playoffs.

“I think we’re playing ball,” Smith said. “We’re playing good ball. Everybody is getting back, getting healthy. It’s crazy how the season goes on. We just keep getting better.”