49ers review: Defensive player-by-player


49ers review: Defensive player-by-player

There were more missed tackles than usual from a 49ers team that usually wraps up very well. But, all in all, it's difficult to poke many holes in an defensive performance that limited an AFC playoff team to two field-goal attempts.

The 49ers gave up 389 total yards, but came away with four takeaways. The Steelers settled for two field-goal attempts, and went 1-for-2 on those tries.
Here is the entire defensive player-by-player review from the 49ers' 20-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night:
Defensive linemen
90-Isaac Sopoaga: Started at nose tackle, and played most of the base downs . . . He recorded two tackles, and did a good job of controlling center Doug Legursky, who started for the injured Maurkice Pouncey.
91-Ray McDonald: Started at left defensive end, and was credited with two tackles and a half-sack with a forced fumble. . . . Called for encroachment in second quarter. . . . Spun off right guard Raymond Foster to get penetration to help stop running back Rashard Mendenhall for 2 yards on a second-and-4 play in third quarter. . . .Working against Legursky, he kept working to strip quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the football for a fourth-quarter turnover.
93-Ian Williams: Inactive (coaches' decision). (Follow on Twitter @IWilliams95)
94-Justin Smith: Started at right defensive end and had an outstanding all-around game. He had three tackles, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery, but he also set up Aldon Smith for a couple of sacks. . . Left guard Trai Essex held him for a 10-yard penalty to wipe out a 6-yard gain in the second quarter. . . .Fought through left side of Steelers line and Mendenhall to pressure Roethlisberger into second-quarter incompletion. . . . Recovered fourth-quarter fumble that directly led to 49ers touchdown in fourth quarter. . . Generously gave himself up to tie up Essex so that Aldon Smith could record a 6-yard sack. . . Justin Smith did the same thing on the next series, resulting in another Aldon Smith sack.
95-Ricky Jean Francois: Entered as a backup at nose tackle, and was not credited with any tackles. (Follow on Twitter @Freakyjean95)
96-Demarcus Dobbs: Saw play time on special teams.Linebackers
51-Blake Costanzo: Played on the special teams, and was part of the coverage units that kept the clamps on the Steelers return game. (Follow on Twitter @BlakeCostanzo51)
52-Patrick Willis: Inactive (hamstring). He continues to rehab and is "hopeful" he'll be able to play Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks. (Follow on Twitter @PatrickWillis52)
53-NaVorro Bowman: Started at the "mike" linebacker position, and had a strong game with eight tackles, including two stops behind the line of scrimmage. . . . Had good leverage on Mewelde Moore to force him out of bounds for a 2-yard loss on a pass play. . . Did a good job of attacking the line of scrimmage and filling the gaps. (Follow on Twitter @NBowman53)
54-Larry Grant: Started at the "jack" linebacker in place of Willis, and responded with another strong showing. He recorded five tackles and broke up four passes. . . . Got up high to bat down pass in the middle of the field that would've gone for a big gain to receiver Antonio Brown. . . Deflected Roethlisberger pass at line of scrimmage on a second-quarter blitz. . . . Attacked line of scrimmage to stop running back Isaac Redman for no gain on a third-quarter draw play, then broke up short pass to Miller on next play. (Follow on Twitter @LarryGrant54)
55-Ahmad Brooks: Started at left outside linebacker, and recorded six tackles while setting the edge against the run. . . . Stacked up receiver Jerricho Cotchery to allow Grant to stop Mendenhall for a 1-yard loss in the third quarter. . . In coverage against tight end Heath Miller on wheel route that picked up 39 yards in third quarter. . . On next play, fought off Essex to help stop Mendenhall for 1-yard loss.
56-Tavares Gooden: Played solely on special teams, and made tackle of Brown for minus-10 yard punt return. He had two special-teams tackles in the game.
98-Parys Haralson: Started at left outside linebacker, and recorded three tackles as he played most of the team's base downs. . . Came up and missed tackle on Mendenhall to allow him to pick up 13 yards on short pass.
99-Aldon Smith: Entered the game in nickel situations, and recorded 2.5 sacks with an astounding seven quarterback pressures. . . . Shoved back left tackle Max Starks for sack that was wiped out by defensive holding penalty down the field. . . . Got pressure on back-to-back incomplete passes in third quarter to force Steelers failed field goal attempt. . . . Again, shoved Starks backward and discarded him to get sack of Roethlisberger. McDonald also got there to be credited with a forced fumble. . . Took advantage of Justin Smith's play to wipe out the left guard Essex and then he avoided blitz pickup of Redman to record 6-yard sack in fourth quarter. The Smith's teammed up for a similar play, and another Aldon Smith sack, on the next possession. (Follow on Twitter @AldonSmithJETS)Defensive backs
20-Madieu Williams: Played exclusively on special teams, and made tackle on opening kickoff. (Follow on Twitter @MadieuWilliams)
22-Carlos Rogers: Started at left cornerback, and came through with a strong game. . . . Provided big play on opening drive when he undercut receiver Mike Wallace to intercept Roethlisberger on the opening drive. He returned it 31 yards. It was his sixth interception of the season. . . Had good coverage on deep ball that fell incomplete to Wallace in second qiarter.
25-Tarell Brown: Started at right cornerback, and also played very well. . . . Made nice play to break up pass down the field on third-and-11 to Mike Wallace in third quarter. . . . Had perfect deep zone coverage on Wallace to record interception in end zone in fourth quarter. (Follow on Twitter @RealTB25)
26-Tramaine Brock: Inactive (coaches' decision). (Follow on Twitter @T26Brock)
27-C.J. Spillman: He was on the field as part of a seven-DB lineup for final play of first half. Allowed Antonio Brown to catch 24-yard pass but quickly tackled him as the half ended. . . . He also recorded one tackle on special teams. (Follow on Twitter @CJSPILLMAN27)
29-Chris Culliver: Played as the 49ers third cornerback, and saw a lot of action with five tackles. . . . The Steelers targeted him initially. Missed tackle on Mike Wallace on on opening series that enabled him to pick up final 30 yards of a 36-yard pass play. . . Had coverage on a crossing route that went for 7 yards to Brown on a third-and-4. . . Got his hand on a slant to Brown to break up a pass on the second drive. (Follow on Twitter @Cullyinthehouse)
30-Reggie Smith: Made two tackles on defense in limited time as a 49ers dime back. . . He was blocking Keenan Lewis in front of Kyle Williams on punt and ball appeared to hit Smith's arm. He was bailed out, though, as Lewis was called for penalty, interference with opportunity to make catch. (Follow on Twitter @superreg30)
31-Donte Whitner: Started at strong safety, and recorded three tackles. . . Good coverage on deep ball to Wallace in the second quarter for an incomplete pass. . . . Tight coverage but could prevent Miller from picking up 11 yards on a second-and-11 in third quarter. (Follow on Twitter @DonteWhitner)
36-Shawntae Spencer: Was active for a second game in a row, and saw a handful of snaps as a sixth defensive back. Spencer was credited with one tackle as he ran Brown out of bounds after a 5-yard gain on a third-and-3 play.
38-Dashon Goldson: Started at free safety, and made seven tackles and intercepted his sixth pass of the season. . . . Missed tackle on Mendenhall on second play of the game, allowing him to pick up 7 yards. Also had a shot on Wallace on a play that went for 36 yards on opening drive. . . . Made good adjustment to intercept pass that glanced off right end Heath Miller's fingers on Steelers second drive. He returned the interception 21 yards to set up the 49ers' second field goal. . . After Cotchery bounced off a couple 49ers defenders, Goldson got a handful of his jersey to keep the third-quarter damage to a 36-yard gain. The Steelers did not score on the drive. (Follow on Twitter @thehawk38)
43-Colin Jones: Played exclusively on special teams, and did a good job of staying in his lanes to help close down options for Steelers' return game.Specialists
2-David Akers: He broke a 49ers record previously held by Jerry Rice for most points in a season. Akers made field goals of 22 and 38 yards, and added two PATS, to give him 143 points on the season. He also did a good job on kickoffs, as the Steelers' average start point was the 21-yard line. (Follow on Twitter @DavidAkers2)
4-Andy Lee: It's not often that a punter has a better net average than gross average. But that's what Lee and his coverage unit did Monday night. Lee averaged 47.5 yards on six punts with a 49.2 net average. He kept the Steelers' offense pinned back throughout the game. . . Landed first punt at the 5-yard line late in the first half. . . . Had a net 67 yards punt (57-yard punt and minus-10 yard return) late in fourth quarter. (Follow on Twitter @Andy4lee)
86-Brian Jennings: He handled the long-snapping duties without incident. (Follow on Twitter @Jennings141)

Day after retiring, Anquan Boldin challenges owners, execs to help protesting players


Day after retiring, Anquan Boldin challenges owners, execs to help protesting players

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Anquan Boldin didn't decide overnight he was going to quit football in order to speak out against longstanding concerns over inequality in America.

The recent deadly and racially charged conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia, did, however, become the tipping point that caused Boldin to reassess his priorities and led to the Buffalo Bills receiver's decision to retire after 14 NFL seasons.

"I think anybody with any sense can see how divided we are as a country, and Charlottesville only magnified what we were already seeing," Boldin told The Associated Press by phone Monday.

He was disturbed by the hateful messages directed at African-Americans, Jewish people and the LGBT community during a rally involving neo-Nazis and other right-wing groups in which a counter-protester was killed and two Virginia state police officers died on Aug. 13.

"That's not the America that I want to live in," he said. "And I think the only way that this America changes is that we as a people stand up and change it."

Boldin spoke a day after abruptly informing the Bills he was retiring some two weeks after signing a one-year contract with a base salary of $1.75 million.

The NFL's 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year, Boldin is no stranger to activism and humanitarian causes. He oversees the South Florida-based Q81 Foundation, which offers educational support for underprivileged children.

He has lobbied for criminal justice reform at the state and federal levels since his cousin was killed by a plain-clothes police officer along the side of a Florida highway in October 2015.

Difficult as it was to walk away from football, Boldin felt he could no longer stand silent on the sideline.

"There's not enough money in this world for me to continue to allow the things that are going on to continue to spread," the 36-year-old father of two boys said.

"I will not feel safe leaving this earth and having my kids have to live in the America that we have today."

Boldin then challenged NFL owners and executives to use their clout to demand change and back many of their players who are already doing so by protesting during the anthem.

"You have your players crying out for help. That's the reason why guys are taking knees during the anthem," he said.

"Just because we're professional athletes doesn't mean we're exempt from the things that go on in society," Boldin said, noting his position as an athlete couldn't save his cousin from being shot.

"If I'm an owner and I see one of my family members - players - hurting, I'd do whatever I can to make sure that my family is OK."

Boldin's decision to retire coincides with what he witnessed during the anthem before Buffalo's preseason game at Philadelphia on Thursday. Eagles defensive end Chris Long showed his support by putting his arm around cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who stood in silent protest with a raised fist. Bills backup lineman Cameron Jefferson was so inspired by what he saw that he also raised his fist on Buffalo's sideline.

Boldin ranks in the top four among active receivers with 1,076 catches, 13,779 yards receiving and 82 touchdowns receiving.

He spent last season with Detroit, where he had 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns in 16 games.

The former Florida State star spent his first seven NFL seasons with Arizona, then played three years with Baltimore and three with San Francisco. He helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl in February 2013.

Lions safety Glover Quin credited his former teammate for having the courage for ending his career while knowing he can "have a bigger impact to do something else."

"I tip my hat to him," said Quin, one of several NFL players who joined Boldin in addressing Congress last year. "One day, we'll be able to look back on it and say, `That was the start of something great.'"

A day later, Boldin feels he made the right choice and pays no mind to those who suggest he simply stick to sports.

"I think it's absurd to tell a person to stick to playing football when the issues that he's talking about are affecting him," he said.

Earlier in the day in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Boldin said his decision to retire had nothing to do with the Bills trading their top receiving threat, Sammy Watkins, in a pair of blockbuster deals on Aug. 11 , or how the team's offense struggled in a 20-16 preseason loss at Philadelphia.

He also discounted the notion he might reconsider retirement and choose to play for a contender later this season.

"Do I feel like I can still play? Of course," Boldin said. "My passion for the advocacy work that I do outweighs football at this point, so I'm not coming back to play for a contender or to do anything else. I'm done with the game of football."

49ers rookie QB Beathard turns VR into reality

49ers rookie QB Beathard turns VR into reality

The 49ers made a late-night trade in April to move back into the end of the third round to select an unheralded quarterback from Iowa.

The deal did not come without some second-guessing. After all, why trade away a seventh-round pick for C.J. Beathard, when he was likely to be available five picks later with the 49ers’ next scheduled draft pick?

Beathard has done everything right since his arrival, seemingly justifying the 49ers' decision to make sure they secured him when they did. And a solid showing during training camp has placed him in position to overtake veteran Matt Barkley as the team’s No. 2 quarterback.

“That’s for the coaches to decide on and evaluate,” Beathard said. “I’m critical of myself and I feel like there were plays that I can improve on and get better at. That’s part of football. You’re never going to play a perfect game. I’m always trying to get better.”

Brian Hoyer strengthened his grasp on the 49ers’ starting job with an impressive training camp with his arm strength, accuracy, and knowledge and execution of Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Beathard has saved his best performances for the two exhibition games with and against backup players. Beathard has completed 14 of 23 passes (60.9 percent) for 211 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating is 130.6.

“There were a couple third downs I thought he missed, but it was hard to get anyone in a rhythm that game,” Shanahan said after the 49ers’ 33-14 loss to the Denver Broncos on Saturday. “I think under the circumstances, he did solid.”

Beathard, the grandson of long-time NFL executive Bobby Beathard, led Iowa to a 12-2 record as a junior. His production dropped as a senior, as he completed 56.5 percent of his attempts with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the Hawkeyes' pro-style offense.

He entered training camp at No. 3 on the depth chart. He and Barkley have been assigned the same number of practice snaps since the team reported to Santa Clara in late-July.

But Beathard has taken advantage of technology to get more and more comfortable in the 49ers’ offense. The 49ers are one of six NFL teams that use STRIVR Labs as an aide in training players via virtual reality. The tool is especially useful for quarterbacks with the camera stationed approximately 10 yards behind the quarterback.

The 49ers have two stations inside Levi’s Stadium with VR headsets, and Beathard has taken full advantage of the resource to train his eyes to read defenses and route progressions. One source told NBC Sports Bay Area that Beathard recently reviewed more than 1,000 practice plays in a week with the technology on his own time.

“You only get limited reps in practice, but you’re able to watch through virtual reality, essentially every rep in practice – all of Brian’s and Matt’s and go back and watch mine, and kind of play things out in your head as you watch practice,” Beathard said.

Beathard's pedigree, football smarts and toughness are what originally drew Shanahan to him before the draft.

Beathard’s toughness was on display in the first exhibition game, when he hung in to deliver a pass down the field to Kendrick Bourne just moments before taking a hit from a Kansas City defensive lineman. Bourne turned it into a 46-yard touchdown.

On Saturday, Beathard executed a convincing play-fake to running back Kapri Bibbs before rolling to his left and tossing to tight end George Kittle, his Iowa teammate. Kittle turned upfield, ran over one would-be tackler, stiff-armed another and managed to stay in-bounds en route to a 29-yard touchdown.

Kittle, who caught two touchdowns passes from Beathard against Nebraska in their final game together at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium, is not surprised with how quickly Beathard has adapted in his first NFL training camp.

“He is the most competitive person I’ve ever met in my life,” Kittle said. “You’ve got a guy who just cares about football.”