Shutdown Corner - NFL

The San Francisco 49ers selected USC safety Taylor Mays(notes) in the second round of the 2010 draft despite the fact that Mays was still raw like sushi when it came to his coverage abilities. The mitigating factor with Mays has always been his ridiculous athleticism; at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he runs a legitimate 4.3 40 and has rare open-field range.

As we discovered in the first quarter of today's 49ers-Atlanta Falcons game, Mays also has the ability to get aerial and tiptoe the line at the back of the red zone with the best of them. This happened with 4:31 left in the first quarter, when Atlanta punter Michael Koenen(notes) got his attempt blocked by receiver Dominique Zeigler(notes) at the Atlanta 12-yard line. The ball went in the air, and we had liftoff:

[Photo: More of Mays' reaction to incredible play]

Mays' ascent may have caused Michael Lewis to ask for his release from the team, but if Mays keeps making plays like this, the Niners will happily struggle along as he gets the hang of the NFL's finer points. That sideline drill was something even Cris Carter would have been proud of. Unfortunately for Mays and his team, the Falcons won the game, 16-14, and the Niners are now 0-4.

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