Goodwin: plenty of room for offense to improve


Goodwin: plenty of room for offense to improve

SANTA CLARA -- Center Jonathan Goodwin, the only starting player on the 49ers with a Super Bowl ring, had a high opinion of his future team while playing for the New Orleans Saints."Last year we played against them and I thought the defense was one of the most physical defenses I played against," Goodwin said. "This was the team I didn't want to play in the playoffs. I thought they had a lot of talent here."
The Saints, fresh off their Super Bowl title, met the 49ers in Week 2. Quarterback Alex Smith had one of his better games, marching the 49ers down the field for a game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter.But New Orleans closed the game with a 51-yard drive in the final 1:19 to win the game on a final-play field goal."I knew they had Frank (Gore) and Vernon (Davis)," Goodwin said. "And Alex led them right down the field to tie that game. My experience against the San Francisco 49ers was always good. They played us tough last year and could've easily won that game."The 49ers brought in Goodwin, an 10-year veteran, after David Baas signed with the New York Giants after the lockout ended. Goodwin signed a three-year, 10.9 million contract with the 49ers, and has quickly earned the respect of his teammates with his play and attention to detail.
"Once I got here and started practicing with the guys, I saw a lot of potential," Goodwin said. "Hopefully that potential can keep growing and we find a way to score even more points on offense."The 49ers (8-1) lead the NFC West by five games with seven weeks remaining. The 49ers rank seventh in the league in points scored while being tied for 25th in total yards.There is plenty of room for the 49ers' offense to get better, too. The team ranks 24th in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on 43.8 percent of their trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line."There's a lot we can clean up," Goodwin said. "We got to find a way to get touchdowns instead of field goals in some of those situations. Who knows, maybe then the game's not as tight at the end."But as long as we get wins, that's all that matters. You don't need style points in the NFL. It's huge that we're finding a way of finding a way to win, even though we know we're capable of playing so much better on offense."

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense


What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

SANTA CLARA – Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon did not win the right to suit up for the 49ers’ first four games. Behind the scenes, he made it his mission to earn a contributing role.

“He really started to get better with his coordination with his feet from the bump-and-run coverage and from playing ‘off.’ There’s always a light that goes on,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And we felt that for a couple weeks from Ahkello. Once he did that, he definitely earned the right to be out there.”

The plan was for Witherspoon to rotate into the action and share time with starters Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. But he played just six snaps on Oct. 8 against Indianapolis before sustaining a concussion. Witherspoon returned to action last week and played 34 of the 49ers’ 74 snaps last week at Washington. He showed enough to coninue getting significant playing time.

“He’s earned the right to play,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He works his tail off in practice. He’s so deliberate in his approach. Whether it was scout team, whether it was team reps, whether it was walk-through, it didn’t matter.”

Witherspoon, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick at No. 66 overall, had a pedestrian training camp. Taking his lumps in August showed him what he needed to do to get into real games in October.

“I really turned up my focus, my intent every day in practice,” Witherspoon said. “What I did in camp wasn’t good enough to be a starting corner in this league, and that’s what I learned.

“I really focused on being aware of what it takes. That’s something I implemented these last four weeks -- that every day focus and competing on every single ball, and taking the mindset that no ball’s caught on me. I think that’s really helped my game, and helped these coaches trust me, as well.”

Witherspoon expected Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to attack him. But of the 25 plays he was in coverage last week, Witherspoon saw only three passes come his way. He surrendered two receptions for 33 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Just being a rookie, I thought it was going to come, where they were going to be taking that one shot,” Witherspoon said. “I kept waiting for it to happen, but it didn’t happen. Going up against a smart quarterback, I know he saw me out there.

“There were a few times he looked my way in coverage. I wasn’t perfect in coverage, but I think he was looking. And I thought I did a good job.”

Witherspoon (6 foot 3, 195 pounds) is comfortable lining up on either side of the field, which he did during his college career at Colorado. He said he has not put on much weight but he has added more muscle, which has allowed him a better chance to compete physically against bigger NFL receivers.

Witherspoon fully expects to be challenged on Sunday when he is expected to see considerable playing time against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Witherspoon figures Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be paying particularly close attention any time Dez Bryant lines up on his side of the field.

“They’re going to be looking at the ‘rook,’ ” Witherspoon said.

Said Shanahan, “They’re going to try to do that with all our DBs, so I don’t think it even matters who’s out there. They’re going to attack when we’re in single safety, which we are the majority of the time. They’re going to go outside and keep going out there until you stop them.”

* * *

EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch Kyle Shanahan's full sit-down interview with Matt Maiocco on "49ers Game Plan," which is scheduled to air Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine


49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

The NFL fined 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon $24,309 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game against Washington.

Garçon, who was not penalized on the play, lowered his helmet and struck Washington safety Montae Nicholson at the end of an 8-yard pass reception in the second quarter.

In 2013, the NFL passed a rule that bans the ball carrier from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet in the open field.

Nicholson’s helmet flew off and he remained on the ground for a couple of minutes. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and shoulder injury. However, Nicholson was cleared and he returned to action.

After the play, Garçon and Washington safety D.J. Swearinger exchanged words, and Swearinger took a swipe at Garçon’s facemask. Swearinger was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The NFL fined Swearinger $9,115 for unnecessary roughness.