SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco's success against Arizona's offense this season has not come by accident.
At their best, the 49ers field a prototypical 3-4 defense that can suffocate an opponent. They made that statement loud and clear during their 24-9 victory over the Cardinals. This defense appears perfectly suited for collapsing the pocket around Kurt Warner, particularly if Ahmad Brooks is going to play the way he did Monday night.
The 49ers have not been consistent enough defensively this season, but some key pieces appear to be in place:
Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin has taken a giant step forward this season. Getting solid play from that position is critical to the success of any 3-4 defense. Franklin has proved he can be one of the top nose tackles in the league. He makes teammates better.
Defensive end Justin Smith appears better suited in the 3-4 than he was in a 4-3. He's a headache for opposing offensive linemen.
Patrick Willis might be the best inside linebacker in the league. He's certainly among the top two or three. Willis was already a dominant player. He should be more effective now that the 49ers have a front-line nose tackle.
Brooks and Parys Haralson are good young prospects at outside linebacker. Both must show more consistency.
Dashon Goldson brings needed athletic ability at free safety. He's just starting out, but also has good potential.
The 49ers rank 18th in yards allowed per game this season. They should probably rank higher and they will rank higher if they can become more consistent. If only they could play the Cardinals every week.