49ers' defense gets the best of Brees


49ers' defense gets the best of Brees


NEW ORLEANS -- The 49ers trailed by seven points late in the first half, and the New Orleans Saints were looking for more.The Saints had already cashed in a Ted Ginn muffed punt into a touchdown. And Colin Kaepernick gave New Orleans another scoring opportunity with an interception.But 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks provided a huge turn in momentum in the closing seconds of the half when he intercepted Drew Brees and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown.After the 49ers reclaimed the lead at the beginning of the second half, Donte Whitner returned another Brees interception for a 42-yard touchdown. And the 49ers were well on their way to a 31-21 victory at the Superdome."A lot of things were going the way they have to go to win a big game like this, and then all of a sudden you give them two free ones," Brees said. "All of a sudden, they rattle off 21 points in a short period of time when we really felt like we had the game under control."Brees completed 26 of 41 passes for 267 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. The 49ers also sacked Brees five times with Aldon Smith, Justin Smith and Ahmad Brooks receiving credit for 1.5 sacks apiece. Brees was sacked just 16 times in the Saints' first 10 games.
"With us having those interceptions for scores, that shows you what kind of defense we have," Brooks said. "With the guys we have you never really know which player is going to make the plays to make the difference in the games. This week, it was me and Donte Whitner who made the big plays for our defense."Safety Dashon Goldson also deserves a lot of credit for a hit on receiver Marques Colston that prevented him from making the reception. Instead, the ball was deflected toward Whitner, who made his third interception in two seasons with the 49ers."You have to give credit to Dashon," Whitner said. "He made a very physical play on Colston. When you are physical on guys, they tend not to focus as much. So there it was -- the ball tipped up and the only thing I told myself was to catch it. I just caught it and it was easy for there.""That was just a football play," Goldson said. "He jumped up before I did, and I made a play. I hit him in the hip and got him down."The 49ers followed up a strong performance against the Chicago Bears with another fine showing against the high-powered Saints offense."We know how good our defense is, especially coming off of last week's win against Chicago," linebacker Patrick Willis said. "It wouldn't have done us any good to come out here and not repeat the performance because we knew the Saints have a good offense. We know we gave up some yards, but when it counted, our defense held together and won the game for us."

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Until now, Kyle Shanahan’s hiring by the San Fracisco 49ers looked great because of his two-and-a-half predecessors – the last days of Jim Harbaugh, the misplaced concept of Jim Tomsula and the couldn’t-make-chicken-marsala-out-of-old-Kleenex problems surrounding Chip Kelly.

But now, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has told us all that Shanahan has a gift we in the Bay Area know all too well. Specifically, that Shanahan took too long to call plays to the Super Bowl the Falcons vomited up to the New England Patriots.

Now who does that remind you of, over and over again?

Yes, some things are evergreen, and too many options in this overly technological age seems to be one of them. Data in is helpful, but command going out is what bells the cow. Ryan said Shanahan was, well, almost Harbaugh-tastic in his timing.

“Kyle’s play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Bleacher Report. “As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you’re talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, ‘There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.’ You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

“With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You’re not being aggressive not running it there.”

And the reason this matters is because the Atlanta Shanahan had multiple good options on every play. In San Francsco, at least in the short term, he’ll be dealing with minimal options. That could speed up his choices, as in “What the hell, we don’t have Julio Jones.” But it could also mean more delays, as in, “Okay, him . . . no, maybe not . . . no, he just screwed up that play last series . . . oh, damn it, time out!”

In short, it’s growing pains season here, children. On the field, on the sidelines, and maybe even in Kyle Shanahan’s head.

49ers defense: Top training camp competitions

49ers defense: Top training camp competitions

Before starting six games as a rookie, Rashard Robinson had not played football since the 2014 season at LSU.

Yet, Robinson is the closest thing to a sure bet to win a starting job among 49ers cornerbacks.

Tramaine Brock was projected as the starting cornerback on the other side until his arrest on suspicion of a troubling domestic incident prompted the 49ers to release him more than three months ago.

The 49ers open training camp next week, and here are the top competitions for starting jobs on defense:

Keith Reaser has yet to make an NFL start while appearing in 28 games the past two seasons. The 49ers rotated cornerbacks with the first-team defense during the offseason program, and Reaser put himself in position to enter camp as the slight favorite to replace Brock.

Veterans Dontae Johnson and Will Davis will try to work their way into the picture. And the 49ers are hopeful talented rookie Ahkello Witherspoon will develop a willingness to play with more physicality. The 49ers selected Witherspoon in the third round. He has the size and all the tools to win the starting job, but there were times in college he showed an alarming lack of aggression as a tackler.

K'Waun Williams is healthy after missing last season due to an ankle injury and falling out of favor with the Cleveland Browns. Defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley, one of the few holdovers from Chip Kelly’s staff, thinks highly of Williams after coaching him with the Browns. Hafley said he believes Williams can become one of the top covermen in the slot in the entire league.

Williams lined up with the first-team defense throughout the offseason program. His biggest competition could come from Will Redmond, whom the 49ers selected in the third round of the 2016 draft but did not play as a rookie due to a knee injury. Redmond has some rust to knock off, but he did not appear to show signs of the injury during the offseason program.

Arik Armstead is not the prototypical player at the “Leo” position. At 6 foot 7, Armstead does not have the low center of gravity that is typically associated with that position. But Armstead is certainly not lacking for athleticism.

The 49ers need a more consistent pass rush to assist their unproven cornerbacks, and this spot will be counted upon to provide more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Veteran Elvis Dumervil, who believes he has regained his explosion off the edge after being hampered with Achilles injury, was added last month to do what he does best. Dumervil, 33, enters the season with 99 career sacks.

Aaron Lynch is on notice as he enters his fourth NFL season. He moves from outside linebacker to defensive end in the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme. Multiple competitions will be ongoing at this position, as the 49ers will look to determine the best fits for base downs, as well as passing situations.

The signing of free-agent Malcolm Smith raised a few eyebrows. It was just the offseason program, but Smith was as impressive as any player on the team during the non-padded practices. He is clearly comfortable in Robert Saleh’s scheme, which is based on the Seattle Seahawks’ defense.

The 49ers had Reuben Foster rated as their No. 3 prospect in the entire draft. They traded with the Seahawks to move up to select him at No. 31 overall. The 49ers seem thoroughly unconcerned with Foster’s shoulder. The club believes he will be medically cleared for the opening of training camp.

The 49ers might want to bring Foster along slowly, but it is clear they do not expect him to be a backup for very long.