San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith took some time to speak to the media at the team's headquarters in Santa Clara on Thursday, discussing the upcoming battle with the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game on Sunday at Candlestick Park.
Smith reflected on how the defense has progressed this season, making sure to take things week-by-week:
Can you talk about how far this defense has come, going back to training camp?
"I think the main thing is we've grown every week. I think our ability to create turnovers and get the turnover has been the keys to our success. Like [S] Donte's [Whitner] hit on the goal line set the tone, set the tempo for what we were going to do that day and took points off the board. As long as we have some back-end guys flying around, hitting people like that, linebackers, d-line, we stand a pretty good chance at winning the game. To me, it's all about turnover ratio and taking points off the board."
In regards to the Giants, Smith spoke about the familiarity that these two teams have after their week 10 matchup:
How much does it matter that you guys beat them before?
"I think with both teams there is a little level of - you're familiar with them. That's the main thing. I think both teams are not going to change up how they attacked each other. They are a little bit of the philosophy of, ‘We just have to block a little bit better but still run the same things.' We're the same way. We're not going to change what we do. We just have to tighten up what we did in the game. We had some breakdowns in our defense. I think if we can correct those and be better prepared than what they are, we have a good chance to win the game."
Does it become increasingly difficult for them to disguise what they're doing on offense?
"I think you have a whole season on tape, but so do we. They know what we're going to do. We know what they're going to do. It's just a matter of who executes the best. There could be a few trick plays, but I think it's just going to be an old who's better. I don't see them changing up their game plan much."
As to how their are playing coming into this Sunday, Smith was very respectful of the danger presented in the Giants:
What are your impressions for how the Giants generally were playing then and playing now?
"Offensively, I can only speak for how they're doing offensively, getting [RB Ahmad] Bradshaw back has been huge for them. [QB] Eli [Manning], the way he's just progressed with those receivers and getting on the same page and making the throws. His understanding of the pocket, that's another thing that I thought Brees was really good at. Eli's just as good if not better. He recognizes where to step up and how to avoid the pass rush and extend the play. The receivers are on the same page so that if he's in trouble, they'll turn into this route or sit down in this protection. So, they've done a good job."
It's going to a be a dogfight come Sunday at the 'Stick, and I have a feeling Justin Smith will be in the middle of it.