Fangio's leap of faith to place Brooks at MLB on goal line

Harbaugh: Goal-line stands were statements

Fangio's leap of faith to place Brooks at MLB on goal line
January 14, 2014, 9:15 am
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Jim Harbaugh: “The un-scouted part of the whole situation was the defense itself.” (AP)

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SANTA CLARA – A week earlier, the 49ers found themselves in their goal-line defense in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers.

On a second-and-goal play from the 1, Packers fullback John Kuhn blasted into the end zone to give Green Bay a lead.

The 49ers always featured a six-man line in their goal-line defense since defensive coordinator Vic Fangio arrived with the 49ers in 2011. But heading into the 49ers’ divisional playoff game against the Carolina Panthers, Fangio made a change.

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Fangio took Ahmad Brooks, an inside linebacker during college days at Virginia, off his position at left defensive end and placed him at middle linebacker between NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis.

“The un-scouted part of the whole situation was the defense itself,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.

“For the years we’ve been here we’ve never shown a 5-3 look. By taking Ahmad and moving him into the center to create the 5-3 was what was un-scouted. We had not shown that and I thought it was a great move by Vic Fangio.”

On the final playoff the first quarter, the 49ers lined up Ray McDonald, Glenn Dorsey, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Justin Smith and Aldon Smith on the line. Brooks moved into the middle of the defense, directly behind the linemen. He leapt over the line of scrimmage on a Panthers run play to Mike Tolbert. Brooks was not involved in the play, but McDonald and Willis stopped him for no gain.

On fourth down, Brooks was in the right gap to stuff the quarterback sneak attempt of Cam Newton.

[RELATED: 49ers defense makes a stand]

The 49ers’ game-changing goal-line stand took place late in the first half from the 1-yard line. Again, lined up in their 5-3, Brooks tripped up Newton as he set off for the end zone after he found nobody open on play-action pass on second down.

Prior to the second-down play, Brooks again tried to leap over the line. He mistimed his jump and was called for encroachment.

“I thought it was very athletic,” Harbaugh said.

On third down, Brooks got into the backfield and Bowman finished off Tolbert for a 1-yard loss to force the Panthers to settle for a field goal. Carolina never scored again, and the 49ers rolled to a 23-10 victory.

“We talked about it during the week, that this is something that would be very difficult for the opposition if we get in that position and Vic said, ‘Well. I hope we’re not in that position,’” Harbaugh said.

“Sure enough we were in that position two times, and that planning, that preparation by our players, especially by Vic Fangio and the defensive coaches was profound.”

In line image of Vic Fangio provided by the Associated Press