49ers review: Defensive player-by-player


49ers review: Defensive player-by-player

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio called it the best defensive performance he's ever witnessed. Coach Jim Harbaugh concurred.Yes, the 49ers' defense was very impressive in the team's 25-19 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.--The Lions converted just 2 of 15 third-down attempts. If you don't have a calculator handy, that's 13.3 percent.
--The 49ers allowed just 4.4 yards per pass attempt, as they sacked quarterback Matthew Stafford five times. Stafford was sacked just six times in the Lions' first five games.--The Lions had 16 possessions, and only one of those drives last longer than 3:05. Ten times the 49ers held the Lions to one first down or fewer, including eight possessions without a first down.The 49ers did all this on defense without ever sending more than four pass-rushers at Stafford. They rushed safeties and linebackers, but on those plays they dropped linemen. Never did they sacrifice coverage to bring extra pass-rushers.Here's a player-by-player look at the 49ers' defensive performances on Sunday:Defensive linemen
90-Isaac Sopoaga: Returned to action after missing a game with an infection. He did not see much action on defense, as the 49ers played mostly in their nickel package.
91-Ray McDonald: Started at left defensive end and was credited with two tackles and a half-sack . . . Plugged hole, forcing running back Jahvid Best to the outside, where he was stopped for a 1-yard gain on second play of the game. . . . Batted down Matthew Stafford pass at line of scrimmage on a third-play in the second quarter. . . .Called for encroachment on a third-and-1 play in third quarter. . . . Deflected another pass for an incompletion in the fourth quarter when Lions had ball near midfield. . . . Moved the pocket back against center Dominic Raiola and got a shared sack with Justin Smith to open Lions' final drive. . . . Showed nice hustle on the final play. He started up the field on a three-man rush, when Stafford threw complete to receiver Calvin Johnson, McDonald reversed direction and made it nearly 20 yards downfield to fall on receiver Titus Young as time expired.
93-Ian Williams: Inactive. (Follow on Twitter @IWilliams95
94-Justin Smith: Started at right defensive end, and was credited with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries . . . Got off block of left tackle Jeff Backus to close hole for Best, holding him to 1-yard gain on first-and-goal play at the 3-yard line early in first quarter. . . . Pressured Stafford into an incompletion on first-and-goal from 6 in third quarter on drive Lions settled for field goal. . . Bull-rushed Backus in third quarter and threw Stafford for 4-yard sack in third quarter. . . . Working against left guard Rob Sims, moved pocket back and got shared sack with McDonald on first play of final Lions drive.
95-Ricky Jean Francois: Suited up, but did not see him get on field. (Follow on Twitter @Freakyjean95)
96-Demarcus Dobbs: Suited up, but did not see him get on field.Linebackers
51-Blake Costanzo: Played on all the special-teams units.
52-Patrick Willis: Started at middle linebacker, and was credited with seven tackles and three passes defensed. . . . He had tight coverage on tight end Brandon Pettigrew all day. Pettigrew was the target of 14 passes, catching eight for 42 yards. So on passes intended for Pettigrew, the Lions averaged just 3 yards per play. . . Willis broke up pass in end zone intended for Pettigrew to prevent first-quarter touchdown. . . Made immediate tackle on Pettigrew for 5-yard gain to force a punt on third-and-5. . . . Good coverage on Pettigrew, who made a nice catch and was ruled to have scored a TD before Willis ripped the ball from his grasp while both men were on the ground. . . . Came on blitz and hit Stafford hard as he was throwing. Stafford completed the pass to Best for 21 yards. . . . Good coverage against Pettigrew on incomplete pass in end zone in third quarter. . . . Jarred ball loose from Young on sideline on Lions final drive of the game. (Follow on Twitter @PatrickWillis52)
53-NaVorro Bowman: Started at inside linebacker and played every snap in the game. After a film review, the coaches adjusted Bowman's tackle total from 13 to 17 tackles. . . Had good position on third-and-goal incomplete pass intended for Best to hold Lions to field goal in the first quarter. . . Overran Best on 13-yard gain late in first quarter. . . . Avoided attempted block of tight end Will Heller and stopped Best for 1-yard gain in third quarter. . . . Broke up third-and-5 pass to Pettigrew with 1:19 remaining. (Follow on Twitter @NBowman53)
54-Larry Grant: Played on special teams. (Follow on Twitter @LarryGrant59)
55-Ahmad Brooks: Started at left outside linebacker, and made an immediate impact when he dropped into coverage and then came up to drop Jahvid Best for a 2-yard loss on a screen pass. He finished the game with five tackles. . . Got great jump off the snap from the left side to sack Stafford for 7-yard loss on third-down play in the second quarter. . . .Got off block of right tackle Gosder Cherilus to close lane for Best on place Bowman threw him for a 1-yard loss in fourth quarter. . . . Got pressure around outside against Cherilus, forcing Stafford to step up and get sacked by Justin Smith and McDonald on first play of Lions' final drive.
56-Tavares Gooden: Played special teams.
98-Parys Haralson: Started at right outside linebacker, but sustained right hamstring strain in the first quarter. He was on field-goal block unit late in the final minute of the first half but did not play in the second half. His injury is not believed to be serious.
99-Aldon Smith: Saw the most playing time in his young career with approximately 60 snaps. . . . The 49ers played in their nickel defense for most of the game, but Smith also saw some action in the base with Haralson out of action. . . The game got off to a rough start, but he came on strong and had an outstanding performance. Called for roughing the passer for a hit on Stafford at knee level in the first quarter. Before next play, he jumped offside. . . . From standing position, he used his long arms to get Backus' hands off him, and then tripped up Stafford in the end zone for a safety. . . . Dropped into coverage a couple times, and should've intercepted a pass Stafford threw right at him in the second quarter. . . . Dropped into coverage early in third quarter, and allowed Best to get inside him for a 21-yard reception. . . . Got around Backus and hit Stafford as he was throwing to force incomplete pass on two-point conversion attempt in fourth quarter. . . . Destroyed Backus to sack and force a fumble on Stafford in the middle of the fourth quarter. The play lost 18 yards for the Lions and proved big in the game of field position. (Follow on Twitter @AldonSmithJETS)Defensive backs
20-Madieu Williams: Played solely on special teams.
22-Carlos Rogers: Started at left cornerback. He recorded three tackles and had another solid game . . . Called for pass interference, 19 yards, on pass down left sideline to Nate Burleson. . . . Made quick tackle of Calvin Johnson to hold him to 7-yard gain in second quarter. . . .Came up from corner to throw Best for 1-yard loss on screen play in third quarter. . . . Had fantastic position on Johnson in end zone on failed two-point conversion attempt. . . . Missed jam at line of scrimmage on play in which Johnson caught 41-yard pass. . . Good inside position on Burleson to break up fourth-and-5 pass with 1:16 remaining.
25-Tarell Brown: Started at right cornerback and recorded three tackles. He had a strong showing. . . . Tight coverage on Calvin Johnson on second-quarter pass that sailed untouched to the ground. . . . Tight coverage against Titus Young on third-and-goal pass from 6 in third quarter, forcing Lions to settle for field goal. . . . Just missed swatting ball away with right hand on pass Johnson caught for a 23-yard gain in third quarter.
26-Tramaine Brock: Inactive after undergoing surgery on his left hand two weeks ago. (Follow on Twitter @T26Brock)
27-C.J. Spillman: Played on special teams, along with a few snaps on defense. (Follow on Twitter @CJSPILLMAN27)
29-Chris Culliver: Played most of the game, as the 49ers employed their nickel defense for about 60 snaps in the game. . . . He was credited with three tackles and one pass defensed. . . . Good coverage on deep ball down right sideline intended for Johnson in third quarter. . . Was right there to wrap up Johnson on crossing route on final play when Lions tried to keep the ball alive with laterals. But Johnson's pitch to Young was mishandled to end the game. (Follow on Twitter @Cully_Man)
30-Reggie Smith: Played just a handful of snaps when 49ers used six defensive backs. He also recorded a tackle on special teams. (Follow on Twitter @superreg30)
31-Donte Whitner: Started at strong safety and recorded six tackles in teh game. . . . Came up strong to stop Pettigrew for 4-yard gain on first-quarter pass. . . Flew up on a run blitz, avoided block, and stopped Maurice Morris for 1-yard gain in second quarter. . . Read a tight end screen on a third-and-17 late in the first half and dropped Pettigrew for a 3-yard loss. That play came right before Jason Hanson's missed 52-yard field goal. The 49ers then went down and kicked a field goat before the end of the half. . . . Came up from safety to rush the quarterback, forcing Stafford into an intentional grounding in the third quarter . . . Rare missed back on Johnson, allowing him to pick up final 15 yards on a play that went for 41 in the fourth quarter. (Follow on Twitter @DonteWhitner)
36-Shawntae Spencer: Played just a couple snaps of defense in the first half and was involved on special teams.
38-Dashon Goldson: Started at free safety, and was credited with six tackles. . . . Made open-field tackle on Best after 15-yard completion that could've gone for more without a solid tackle. . . . After an incomplete pass at beginning of fourth quarter, he kicked the football and was called for delay of game. So it went from a third-and-10 play to a third-and-5. The Lions converted on the next play. Two plays later appeared to let Burleson get behind him on a stop-and-go near the goal line for a 5-yard touchdown. (Follow on Twitter @thehawk38)
43-Colin Jones: Played exclusively on special teams.Specialists
2-David Akers: His 55-yard field goal at the end of the first half gave the 49ers their first lead of the game, 12-10. He was outstanding on kickoffs, producing touchbacks on each of his five kickoffs. In addition to his 55-yarder, he also made kicks of 31 and 37 yards. This is the first time in his career he has made three 50-plus-yard field goals in the same season. (Follow on Twitter @DavidAkers2)
4-Andy Lee: He helped the 49ers win the field-position battle with a 41.0 net average on nine punts. His gross average (47.8) suffered a little because he landed four of his punts inside the 20-yard line.
86-Brian Jennings: Handled the long-snapping duties, and even hustled down the field to record a tackle. (Follow on Twitter @Jennings141)

49ers extend one-year qualifying offers to Purcell, Bradford

49ers extend one-year qualifying offers to Purcell, Bradford

The 49ers on Monday extended one-year qualifying offers to nose tackle Mike Purcell and linebacker Carl Bradford as exclusive-rights free agents.

Purcell appeared in 15 games last season. He started the first five games of the season at nose tackle and was a reserve for the remainder of the season. Originally signed in 2013 as an undrafted rookie from Wyoming, Purcell has appeared in 25 games over the past three seasons.

The 49ers claimed Bradford off waivers in December from the Green Bay Packers. He appeared in the final two games of the season with the 49ers and was credited with two tackles.

Bradford entered the NFL out of Arizona State as a fourth-round pick of the Packers in 2014. After being inactive for every game as a rookie, Bradford was among Green Bay’s final cuts in 2015. He spent the season on the practice squad.

He appeared in four games for the Packers last year. The 49ers claimed him after he was waived in December.

Exclusive rights free agents are player who have fewer than three years of NFL service who have no outside negotiating power if a team extends a qualifying offer.

Mailbag: Which 49ers vets are on shaky ground?

Mailbag: Which 49ers vets are on shaky ground?

The 49ers’ new regime heads to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week with the first major wave of offseason activity set to kick off.

Already, the 49ers have made roster improvements. And there figure to be plenty of activity ahead in the coming weeks.

Here are some questions submitted by readers on Facebook for this edition of 49ers Mailbag:

Do you see the 49ers cutting ties with larger contracts like Bethea, Torrey Smith and Ahmad Brooks?‬ (Blair Wilkins)
The 49ers have approximately $75 million in space under the salary cap – and that’s before any adjustment of Colin Kaepernick’s contract. So it’s not as if the organization needs to create cap room.

Any decision made to part ways with veteran players will be made solely on how that player fits into what the 49ers envision on the field.

And that’s what general manager John Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff are doing now. They are studying the video from last season to determine which players fit their ideals.

Safety Antoine Bethea is scheduled to earn $5.75 million. Bethea, 32, enters the final year of his contract. There is no question he is everything the 49ers want in a player off the field. If one of the younger guys is not better than Bethea, there is no reason to get rid of him.

Brooks is on the books to earn $5.3 million in 2017. That’s not a huge amount for a starting outside linebacker or defensive end – whichever spot he might fit best. The 49ers must look to upgrade their pass rush. Brooks turns 33 next month. He’s good for six sacks a season. Again, it’s not as if the 49ers can’t afford him. And, as of now, it’s not as if the 49ers have anyone better.

Smith is scheduled to earn $8 million. He has been vastly underutilized in his two seasons since signing with the 49ers. He’s the most interesting case of the high-priced veterans.

Kyle Shanahan’s offense is predicated on using the running game to set up the play-action shot down the field. Smith is limited. He’s not a possession receiver. He’s not going to make plays over the middle. He is an outside receiver whose contributions come in the vertical passing game. But that’s what Shanahan wants.

If Smith is paired with a strong tight end, a running back who catch the ball out of the backfield, a slot receiver with short-area quickness to get open underneath, a very good receiver on the other side and an accurate quarterback who can throw the deep ball, there should be a role for Smith in the 49ers’ offense.

Will the 49ers continue to be aggressive pursuing free agents this offseason? If so, what positions?‬ (Bradley Lodge)
The 49ers have zeroed in on two veteran free agents and they signed them both.

The organization has already spent more money than it did all of last offseason on veteran free agency with the four-year, $16 million deal to sign defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, whom the Miami Dolphins recently released.

Nickel back K’Waun Williams has a history with 49ers defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley. The 49ers did not have to make much of a financial investment to sign him.

The 49ers will definitely go after a veteran quarterback or two in free agency or via trade. Pass rusher, inside linebacker and wide receiver are other positions the 49ers can be expected to look during free agency.

The opening of the new league year – when free-agent signings and trades can occur – is March 9. The draft is seven weeks later.

The 49ers must fill as many of their needs with smart deals that fit into the long-term plan with veteran acquisitions. Then, the draft is about taking the best players on their board when it’s time to select. Teams that reach for need generally strike out.

What are the chances of drafting a QB with first pick and playing them behind a Kap / Cousins until they're ready to become starter?‬ (Hillory Broussard)
If Colin Kaepernick returns, it will not be as a no-questions-asked starter. Just read what Lynch said on KNBR this week about the team’s needs:

“Do we have some places – probably the ultimate position, quarterback – where we need to improve? Absolutely. And we’re committed to doing that.”

That statement can easily be interpreted that Lynch does not believe the 49ers had a starting-caliber quarterback on the roster last season.

But if the 49ers were to go out and swing a trade for Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s going to take a big commitment – in terms of draft picks and a suitable new contract. Then, the 49ers would have that player.

Cousins or Garoppolo would unquestionably fill the 49ers’ need at quarterback for 2017 and beyond -- at least in the minds of the 49ers' new decision-makers. There would be no reason for the 49ers to then draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick – if the 49ers even had the No. 2 overall pick at that point.