Pete Carroll, a former defensive backs coach, used the word "ridiculous" to describe 49ers safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner.
Of course, he meant it as a huge compliment.
The 49ers' defense, as a whole, is a unit that has earned the admiration of the Seattle Seahawks coach -- and former 49ers defensive coordinator -- entering Sunday night's matchup.
"There's stuff they do that's very challenging," Carroll said. "They're very tough on defense. They're so aggressive in their coverage style. Their front guys all make plays. Their linebackers are fantastic. Their safeties are ridiculous. So this is a very, very difficult defense. For two years, they've just been on top of the world."
Carroll said he loves the way Goldson and Whitner go about their work at the back line of the 49ers' defense. Whitner is the 49ers' fourth-leading tackler with 106 tackles, according to the coaches' review of game film, behind NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and Justin Smith. Goldson ranks fifth with 103 tackles.
Whitner has forced two fumbles, including a big hit on New England's Stevan Ridley that Goldson recovered and returned 66 yards to set up a touchdown that gave the 49ers a 24-3 lead early in the third quarter Sunday night. Goldson leads the 49ers with three interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Carroll also expressed admiration for the job 49ers defensive backs coach Ed Donatell has done with the 49ers' secondary.
"They're smart. They have great range. They knock the heck out of you if you give them half a chance," Carroll said of the 49ers' safeties. "Great tacklers. Goldson is an incredible tackler. They're waiting to make something happen, and they don't make many mistakes back there. It's just a really high-powered group, and they know it. They line up and they say, 'Come on.' It's a really nice group they have."
Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson knows he has a tremendous challenge ahead of him. In the first meeting this season, Wilson completed just 9 of 23 passes for 122 yards in the 49ers' 13-6 victory at Candlestick Park. Goldson intercepted one of his passes.
"They're very experienced and they make a lot of plays," Wilson said. "Obviously, they know what they're doing. They do a great job of trusting their reads and what they're seeing. And so you really have to be smart with the football and make smart decisions and make a lot of great plays. I have so much respect for them. You really got to play your best game."