Niners need Brooks to blossom as pass rusher

The 49ers are out of the NFC playoff race, but they have plenty to accomplish in their final two games of the regular season. The team, which has been looking to improve its pass rush in recent seasons, might have found a possible solution.

The Niners have seen plenty of promise from outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who lines up at defensive end in pass-rush situations. If Brooks can continue to develop, the 49ers might not feel the need to invest a high draft pick or free-agent money to shore up that position in 2010.

Brooks will be looking to put a lot of pressure on the Detroit Lions, whose quarterbacks have been sacked 39 times this season. The teams meet Sunday at Candlestick Park.

"Ahmad came to us as an inside linebacker, not really a rush guy," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said. "But you begin to see the skill, the speed, the ability to come off the edge, and you go, 'Wow, we need to do something different here.' And, you put him on the outside and you think that might be the fit."

Brooks entered the NFL as an inside linebacker with the Cincinnati Bengals. He received a major jolt prior to last season when he was released. But he turned it into a positive when he landed quickly with the 49ers.

"There are some things I could've done better," Brooks said. "I was young. Still am young (25), but I was learning. I know now what not to do. It was a devastating feeling, but I'm here. I'm happy. And I'm willing to continue to work."

Brooks remained on the 49ers' roster all of last season and not once got into a game. Now, he's getting his chance, and he is taking advantage of the opportunity.

Brooks recorded three sacks in the 49ers' 24-9 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 14. He ranks second on the team with five sacks.

"He realized, too, once you get released once, you don't get that many more opportunities," said 49ers defensive end Justin Smith, who was a teammate of Brooks with the Bengals. "He realizes that. He's matured a bunch since Cincinnati. He's always had the talent. We saw that in Cincinnati."

Brooks demonstrated his maturity through last season when he continued to work in practice and stick with the program even while getting the weekly tap on his shoulder to be told his services would not be needed in the game.

"Patience is a virtue, and I've been very patient," Brooks said. "It's time to let the dog loose. It's time to let the cage open and show what I'm capable of doing."

UNDER THE RADAR: Wide receiver Josh Morgan has started all season, but he has really impressed the coaches with his play in recent weeks as a pass-catcher, blocker and return man. Morgan had 183 all-purpose yards with a touchdown reception and a 52-yard kickoff return in the 49ers' loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- The number of sacks the 49ers have surrendered in the past four games. The 49ers' pass protection has been much better since offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye has gone with more shotgun formations in passing situations for quarterback Alex Smith. The 49ers gave up 31 sacks in their first 10 games.


--- RB Frank Gore rushed for 107 yards Sunday against the Eagles, giving him back-to-back games in excess of 100 yards for the first time since the 2006 season. It's the 19th 100-yard game of his career. Joe Perry owns the franchise record of 20 games with 100-plus yards rushing.

--- TE Vernon Davis caught three passes for 43 yards against the Eagles to break the franchise's record for most receiving yards in a single season for a tight end. Davis has 858 yards on the season. The previous record belonged to Eric Johnson, who had 825 receiving yards in 2004.

--- CB Dre' Bly had his second interception of the season and the 42nd of his career when he picked off Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb at the beginning of the third quarter. The turnover led to a 49ers touchdown.

--- K Joe Nedney kicked a season-long 51-yard field goal, but he sustained a left hamstring injury (his kicking leg). His availability for this week's game against the Detroit Lions is uncertain.

--- WR Isaac Bruce has not practiced for three weeks, and it's looking as if he might have played his final NFL game. Coach Mike Singletary said there is no plan to have Bruce suit up again this season, though the club will consider having him suit up for the finale at the St. Louis Rams, the team with which Bruce spend his first 14 NFL seasons.

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