Rookies come up big in 'best defensive performance'


Rookies come up big in 'best defensive performance'

DETROIT -- A pair of 49ers rookies played a huge role Sunday in the team's ability to contain the Detroit Lions' explosive passing attack.The 49ers got huge contributions Sunday from rookie outside linebackerdefensive end Aldon Smith and cornerback Chris Culliver in the team's 25-19 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field."Vic (Fangio) said it best, 'Best defensive performance' he's ever been a part of, and I wholeheartedly agree," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.And the 49ers could not have done it without their rookies.

Smith had two sacks, including a safety, and Culliver performed admirably as the 49ers' No. 3 cornerback. Culliver was on the field for nearly every snap of the game, and was matched against receiver Calvin Johnson for a good portion of the game."We're surrounded by guys who are good teachers," Smith said. "Whether it's the players or the coaches, we're able to pick up on it and learn quickly. Chris is a great football player, and we're both just trying to pick up on as much as we can."Johnson became the first player in NFL history to have nine receiving touchdowns in the first five games of the season. He caught seven passes for 113 yards on Sunday, but the 49ers kept him out of the end zone.Culliver has earned the job as the 49ers' No. 3 cornerback, taking over that role from veteran Shawntae Spencer. Starting cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers played well, too."Somebody else had to beat us," Rogers said. "Calvin wasn't going to beat us. That is what we did. He had his plays here and there, but for the most part, we were going to shut him down.""It was just a great team defensive performance," Harbaugh said. "(The) pass-rush was unrelenting. I thought we did a great job of stopping the run and 81 (Johnson) caught the ball, and he's a heck of a player, but we made plays and hung in there. It was a great defensive performance."Culliver said the 49ers tried to be physical with Johnson and re-route him off the line of scrimmage. Johnson is listed at 6-foot-5, 236 pounds."You have to be physical with him," Culliver said. "All his plays he had on me, he pushed off on me. Refs didn't call it but I ain't complaining."I had tight coverage on him. All he did was try to release outside. And when he went inside, he tried to push me off. He was complaining. And I told him he had to shut up because he's too big for that."Fangio said the 49ers paid particular attention to Johnson. The club devoted two defenders to Johnson with many of their coverages, he said."There were a good bit of the plays where we had two guys -- man or zone concepts -- that were paying attention to him," Fangio said. "He's a great player, one we paid a lot of attention to, and it paid off."After the 49ers took a 22-19 lead with 1:51 remaining, the defense came through with a four-and-out. Again, when the Lions got the ball back, trailing 25-19 with 1:02 left, the 49ers' defense held. Justin Smith and Ray McDonald combined for the 49ers' fifth sack of quarterback Matthew Stafford to snuff out the Lions' last chance before they really ever had a chance.

Report: 49ers free agent ILB signing with rival Seahawks

Report: 49ers free agent ILB signing with rival Seahawks

Michael Wilhoite has spent his whole five-year NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers.

But now the free agent inside linebacker is reportedly switching sides in the NFC West rivalry. Wilhoite is set to sign with the Seattle Seahawks, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. 

Terms of the deal are unknown at this time. 

Wilhoite, 30, played in all 16 games last season for the 49ers, starting in only six. In 2016 he recorded 55 tackles, 30 less than 2015 in four less games, and forced one fumble. 

After earning a promotion from the 49ers' practice squad in 2012, Wilhoite's career in the Bay Area comes to an end with 268 tackles and three interceptions in 65 games. 

NFL owners mull cutting regular-season OT to 10 minutes

NFL owners mull cutting regular-season OT to 10 minutes

NEW YORK -- NFL owners will consider proposals next week to cut regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10; eliminate players leaping over the line on kick plays; and expansion of coaches' challenges and what can be reviewed by officials.

In what promises to be a busy annual meeting next week in Phoenix that will include discussing the Raiders' potential relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas, the 32 owners also will vote on changing the mechanics on replay reviews and other items intended to reduce downtime during games.

The Eagles proposed four rules changes, including abolishing the leaping techniques that league football operations director Troy Vincent said Thursday "don't belong in the game."

Seattle and Buffalo co-authored a proposal allowing a coach to challenge any officiating decision, whether a foul is called or not.

"That is a significant change to our current replay rule and it is something that will be on the floor and will be debated next week," NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino said.

Another major change would be the reduction of overtime in-season; the extra period in the playoffs would remain at 15 minutes. The powerful competition committee, of which Vincent and Blandino are members, believed it's a player safety issue, noting that number of snaps for games going to OT - especially deep into the overtime - is excessive. Especially if a team has a quick turnaround.

"We don't know where a team is going to be playing the next week, it could be four days later," said committee chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons. "We felt we should put an end to it. We don't think it will lead to more ties. Could it? It could, but we are not concerned with that."

As for changing the format of overtime to ensure both teams always get a possession - a popular topic after how the Super Bowl ended - Blandino said the league's wants to keep the element of sudden death in the extra period.

The "leaper rule" has taken some priority among competition committee members, the players' union and coaches. Vincent said coaches have begun scheming how to defense it, which can "create a real safety issue."

"It is really in the best interest of the game" to outlaw leaping on kicks," Vincent added.

McKay noted that the NCAA is in the process of passing a similar ban on the technique.

During the meetings that run from Sunday to Wednesday, the teams will be shown plays the competition committee believes should result in suspensions or ejections. Game officials already have had the leeway to eject players, but it rarely has happened; there were three in 2016.

"They don't happen very often, let's give the players credit," McKay said. "We have 40,000 plays in a year. We'll show a tape that will have four or five plays that would warrant suspension. This is not a widespread situation."

Added Vincent, a former NFL defensive back: "When you see the plays, they are catastrophic. We had two players who did not return for the season. They are high-impact plays that belong out of the game. It will be a real point of emphasis this season."