SANTA CLARA -- How is it that the 49ers are so bad in the red zone and they're still NFC West champions with a 10-3 record?As bad as they are on offense, they've been that good on defense. The 49ers own the league's best red-zone defense."We've done a good job of playing the run," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "Most good red-zone offenses start with a good running game and we've been able to play the run down there well. And then when it comes time to pass, we've done a good job with covering up the receivers and getting some good rush. It's just a combination of good players doing the right thing."The 49ers' defense inside the opponent's 20-yard line is the major reason the 49ers left Philadelphia with a 24-23 victory on Oct. 2. The Eagles got inside the 20-yard line seven times and came away with only two touchdowns. The run defense has led the way, allowing just 1.99 yards per rushing attempt in the red zone. The 49ers are the first team since the 1920 Decatur Staleys to not allow a rushing touchdown in the first 13 games of a season.The 49ers have allowed the opposition to enter their own 20-yard line just 28 times. The defense has given up just 10 touchdowns for a league-best defensive percentage of 35.7. Opponents have settled for 13 field goals.Most of the attention has gone to the 49ers' failures inside the red zone. And that's where the 49ers turned a lot of their own attention this week as they prepare to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night. On a typical week, the 49ers spend time in two practices on their red-zone game plan. This week, they spent three days working on it, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.No team in the NFL is worse than the 49ers inside the opponents' 20-yard line. The 49ers have gotten into the red zone 45 times. They've scored just 16 touchdowns -- for a lowly 35.6 percentage. (The league average is 52 percent.) But with 25 field goals, the 49ers have actually scored 91.1 percent of the time they get that far. That's tied for fifth-best in the league.Some might wonder if the 49ers' offense works against the 49ers' defense during practice. The answer is no. Once the regular season begins, the first-team offense does not go up against the first-team defense. Coaches have determined it is much more beneficial to prepare for the upcoming opponent with "scout" teams comprised of backups and practice-squad players that try to replicate what the opposition will try to do.
The 49ers on Wednesday were assigned outside linebacker Cassius Marsh off waivers from the New England Patriots.
The Patriots waived Marsh on Tuesday after acquiring him in September from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for fifth- and seventh-round draft picks.
Marsh (6 foot 4, 245 pounds) appeared in 46 games in his four NFL seasons. Three of his four career sacks came in 2016 while with the Seahawks. He was Seattle's fourth-round pick in 2014.
Marsh is the second defensive player the 49ers have claimed off waivers this week. The club acquired former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Sheldon Day on Monday. The 49ers released defensive linemen Tony McDaniel and Datone Jones within the past week.
The 49ers are at their roster maximum of 53 players. The club will have to clear a roster spot if Tank Carradine, as expected, is activated off injured reserve in order to play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.
SANTA CLARA – Quarterback C.J. Beathard is expected to make his fifth consecutive start for the 49ers on Sunday, but Seattle coach Pete Carroll said his team will be prepared to face Jimmy Garoppolo, too.
“It really isn’t a factor,” Carroll said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Wednesday. “We’re just preparing for the 49ers. They got a style of offense. They got really good players who do what they do. And whoever’s triggering it from the quarterback spot, we’re going to go play football.
“We’ve seen Jimmy play. We’ve seen how he’s mobile and the kind of athlete and competitor he is. But other than that, we just go play football. We can’t do anything about that.”
Beathard remained on the sideline when the clubs met Sept. 17 in Seattle. The Seahawks have defeated the 49ers seven consecutive times, including a 12-9 victory in Week 2 this season. Quarterback Brian Hoyer started the 49ers’ first six games of the season and rushed for just 7 yards during that time. Beathard has 115 yards rushing on 20 attempts in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
“He’s been mobile. He’s got a rushing average, you know,” Carroll said of Beathard. “He’s averaging 5-yards a carry and stuff. They’re incorporating him in the run game some that we have to be concerned about. That’s different than other quarterbacks at times. I’d think Jimmy can do the same stuff.
“He (Beathard) is getting more settled. You can see the offense growing. You can see Kyle able to expand and do more stuff. He’s an incredible offensive coordinator and play-caller that we’ve respected for a long time. I think they’re just grown and they’re getting more proficient at what they’re doing."