SANTA CLARA -- If the 49ers' best unit deserves a nickname this season, consider this: "The No-Fame Defense."
The national media largely ignored the 49ers on midseason all-pro lists, several of which came out Tuesday. Another slight come when President Barack Obama told a "Monday Night Football" audience that his beloved Chicago Bears have the "best defense in the league right now."
Never mind that the NFC West-leading 49ers (6-2) are allowing the fewest points per game (12.9). Idle last weekend, they have not yielded a touchdown in four of their past five contests. Next up are the St. Louis Rams (3-5) in a divisional game Sunday at Candlestick Park.
Linebacker Aldon Smith believes the 49ers are, for now, flying under the national radar, adding: "This season's long, and some of us will play our best coming back from the bye."
As the 49ers' second-year sack leader, Smith quickly is learning not to get caught up in outside opinions, especially in the wake of last week's apparently bogus report that he got assaulted in Columbia, Mo.
"The whole thing was so absurd. It didn't happen," Smith said. "It's the way the world, the media works now. Bad news circulates bigger than good news."
The 49ers defense could interpret its lack of midseason accolades as good news, if it wishes to get fueled by perceived disrespect.
Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, last season's Associated Press First-Team All-Pro inside linebackers, were left off midseason honor rolls by Sports Illustrated, Yahoo! Sports and Pro Football Weekly. Willis and Bowman lead the 49ers with 87 tackles each.
One defensive accolade did fall to Justin Smith, who made Yahoo's midseason team as a defensive end, even though he's listed as a defensive tackle in Pro Bowl balloting.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King passed over all the 49ers defenders, but he did select running back Frank Gore, right tackle Anthony Davis and punter Andy Lee for his midseason team. Pro Football Weekly also shut out the 49ers defense while honoring Davis, Lee and left guard Mike Iupati.
Davis called his accolades "cool." Then he chose an expletive to depict the 49ers defense's lack of recognition.
The 49ers rank second in total yards allowed, second in passing yards allowed and fifth in rushing yards allowed. They've allowed the fewest first downs and, more impressive, they tout the second-best defense for third-down efficiency.
But the 49ers aren't creating turnovers. They've tallied six interceptions and six fumble recoveries, putting them well off last season's pace that yielded 38 takeaways.
"A lot of offenses know we're going after the ball, and I'm pretty sure they're putting an emphasis during the week to hold onto the ball," defensive tackle Ray McDonald said.
Smith leads the 49ers with 7½ sacks, giving him 21½ sacks in 1½ seasons since the 49ers drafted him in last year's first round.
For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers.