Aldon Smith has 19.5 sacks entering Sunday night's game. He sounds optimistic he'll be well past 20 if he's matched up with Nate Solder all night.
In a Q&A with the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, Smith was asked about his college matchup with Solder when the Patriots left tackle was at Colorado and Smith was a freshman at Missouri.
Q: Do you remember what happened when you faced Nate Solder in college?ALDON SMITH: I had a good game.Q: You had three sacks.ALDON SMITH: Four.Q: Must have been looking at the wrong box score.ALDON SMITH: Must have.Q: Does that give you good feeling going into this game?ALDON SMITH: Yeah. I faced him in college and I know who he is.Q: Is it just a good matchup for you?ALDON SMITH: I was able to beat him, yeah.Q: Is he a much different player now?ALDON SMITH: Im sure he improved. He made it this far. Hes starting.
There's a little more in the interview, including a quote from Smith where he says "We can stop them," in reference to the Patriots offense.
Context is important on that one. The question posed was, "We asked Fangio if he enjoys facing the Patriots, and he asked us if we were sadists. When you look at the Patriots offense, do you say, 'Wow, how do we stop them?' or 'We can stop them.'
What's the kid supposed to say?
Either way, Solder is enjoying a good 2012 season in his first run as the Patriots full-time left tackle. Not only is he better than he was when he faced Smith, he's miles better now than he was in the preseason.
He's allowed three sacks, five QB hits and 25 quarterback hurries according to Pro Football Focus. The hurries are the most subjective of the three stats. Personally, I'd consider a "hurry" to be charged when a quarterback is facing impending doom and gets rid of the ball prematurely to avoid a sack allowed by the offending lineman.
It should be an interesting matchup. And, regardless of how well Solder's playing, the Patriots are certain to devote a lot of attention to stopping Smith.