49ers

49ers disappointed with lack of defensive execution in win over Saints

49ers disappointed with lack of defensive execution in win over Saints

NEW ORLEANS -- For the second week in a row, the 49ers' defense got off to a slow start on Sunday in their 48-46 win over the Saints

Prior to their matchup in New Orleans, the 49ers' defense was ranked second in the NFL by allowing only 267.4 yards of offense per game -- 116.6 on the ground and 150.8 through the air. Quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints crushed those numbers, with 465 yards of total offense. 

The defense was unable to sack Brees after successfully getting to opposing quarterbacks 45 times over their first 12 games. Missed tackles and blown assignments allowed the Saints to put up 27 points in the first half alone. 

Cornerback Richard Sherman, who left the game early with a hamstring injury, seemed more disappointed by the performance of the defense than upset. While the 49ers have often relied on their defense to control and direct the outcome of games, this time the offense was the difference maker

“Thank goodness for our offense,” Sherman said. “Thank goodness for Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, obviously Kyle Shanahan, the entire offense. They made plays when they had to. We’re thankful we got the win.” 

Sherman’s disappointment fell predominantly on the mistakes in basic coverage and a lack of execution. 

“It’s frustrating because of simple plays,” Sherman said. “It’s things we’ve gone over. It’s not like they beat us with a bunch of trick misdirection plays. These are day-one football plays that we have to execute better. 

“Give credit to them. Drew saw them, found the people that were open, and made the plays. Give them credit, they had a good plan coming in, but we have to execute better.” 

Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner couldn’t put his finger on why the defense came out flat for the second week in a row, but definitely recognized the issue. 

“Early on we needed to get our feet set and they jumped on us early,” Buckner said. “I feel like towards the second half we started to make key stops and keep them to field goals. They got us on that last drive. Our offense responded well and we know there’s things that we need to clean up.” 

[RELATED: 49ers' Moore mocks Saints for not knowing rule on fake punt]

The 49ers have a week to prepare for their next matchup facing the Falcons, and must have a much stronger start defensively. 

“We just have to come out with more energy,” Buckner said. “Two weeks we came out kind of slow and that’s just not like us. So we just got to get back to what we do and just take it one play at a time.”  

Jimmy Garoppolo bruised Kyle Shanahan's hands during pre-draft workout

Jimmy Garoppolo bruised Kyle Shanahan's hands during pre-draft workout

MIAMI, Fla. -- Before Jimmy Garoppolo became one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL and led the 49ers to Super LIV in Miami, he was just a quarterback from Eastern Illinois University hoping for a chance.

As the NFL draft approached in 2014, Kyle Shanahan was just an offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, who desperately needed a quarterback.

Their paths crossed then, as Shanahan drove up to Northwestern University to work out the young signal-caller. But Shanahan didn't spend his time in Evanston, Ill., as a spectator to the Jimmy G show. Instead, he became a key participant. 

Due to a lack of wide receivers, Shanahan, a former receiver at Duke and Texas, had to catch balls from Garoppolo and got a first-hand account of the quarterback's arm talent.

"I remember, they didn't have a lot of receivers show up, so I had to do some of the routes," Shanahan told the media Tuesday about the 2014 workout. "Which was frustrating because he threw it too hard and I didn't have gloves and I remember the next few days my hands were purple. But I feel like I caught most of them. So, the workout was great and then going out to dinner later that night and just getting to hang out with him, very simple, very humble. 

"When you spend a night with someone, especially through the draft process and they come off the way he does, man, what's the guy hiding? He's so relaxed and such a good dude. I've been with him for about three years and he's no different from that first night." 

As impressed as Shanahan was with Garoppolo that day, his now quarterback was equally wowed by his coach's hands. 

“Kyle was snagging passes, no gloves needed," Garoppolo said when asked about the workout. "So it was pretty impressive, bringing him back to his receiver days.”

Shanahan went back to Cleveland but, in total Browns fashion, they neglected to pick the signal-caller that had been slinging the pill to their OC. 

Instead, they took Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel with the No. 22 overall pick. Shanahan would leave Cleveland the following season and spend two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons before being hired to turn around the 49ers.

[RELATED: How Alex Smith helped develop Mahomes during rookie season]

Garoppolo heard his name called 40 selections later when Bill Belichick drafted him to be the heir apparent to Tom Brady. Three seasons later, with Brady still torching defenses and winning Super Bowls, Belichick called up Shanahan and traded Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round pick, choosing to send the young quarterback to a situation Belichick believed would be beneficial for Garoppolo. 

As usual, Belichick was correct. Once Garoppolo was given the starting job near the end of the 2017 season, he and Shanahan had instant success, leading to a lucrative long-term contract and now a Super Bowl berth.

Shanahan's offensive ingenuity and Garoppolo's resiliency make them a pairing that appears built to last. 

Five years, three teams, one trade and a pair of purple hands later, that formula now has Shanahan and Garoppolo one win away from Super Bowl immortality.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.

Bill Belichick's faith in Jimmy Garoppolo all Troy Aikman needed to hear

Bill Belichick's faith in Jimmy Garoppolo all Troy Aikman needed to hear

MIAMI, Fla. -- Eight. That's a number being tossed around a lot this week in Miami ahead of the 49ers' clash with the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. 

As has been well-documented, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo only was asked to throw the ball eight times in the 49ers' NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers. But Garoppolo's lack of attempts wasn't due to lack of confidence from head coach Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers were picking up yards in chunks on the ground against the Packers. No matter what play they ran, Raheem Mostert sliced through the Packers' defense en route to a record-breaking game to send the 49ers to Miami. 

With Mostert and the ground game humming, Garoppolo was able to put it in cruise control and coast to Sout Beach. 

In order to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, Garoppolo will, in theory, have to throw a touch more than eight times. Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, who will call the game Sunday on FOX, has all the belief in the world that Garoppolo can make the plays when called upon at Hard Rock Stadium. 

"I understand what happens when you only throw the ball eight times,” Aikman said Tuesday. “I really believe if he’s needed that he’s certainly capable of playing at a really high level. I really think he’s going to have a much bigger impact on this game than what he had the first two [playoff games]." 

Garoppolo had a good season, and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid certainly isn't buying the idea that Garoppolo isn't something to worry about. Frank Clark on the other end didn't sound super impressed with what he's seen from Garoppolo, but the 27-year-old has made plays when it mattered this season. 

He threw for 3,978 yards and 27 touchdowns while leading the NFL's second-highest scoring offense. He led game-winning drives in New Orleans against the Saints and at home against the Arizona Cardinals. When called upon, Garoppolo has been nails. 

For Aikman, his belief in Garoppolo is rooted not in what the quarterback has done this season, but in the faith that Bill Belichick had in him to eventually take the reigns from Tom Brady. When Aikman asked Belichick about Garoppolo while the young quarterback still was a New England Patriots, the legendary head coach had unwavering faith that the current face of the 49ers could do everything needed of him. 

"If something were to happen to Tom Brady, he said he felt they could win with Jimmy Garoppolo," Aikman said. "And when Bill Belichick says win, that doesn’t mean win Week 3,” Aikman said. “That means, win it all. I thought it spoke volumes for the respect that he had for him.” 

When Belichick speaks, you listen. 

[RELATED: How Alex Smith helped develop Mahomes during rookie season]

Garoppolo watched Brady and Belichick win two Super Bowls during his time in New England. Soaking in the lessons from a dynastic operation that has spanned two decades. 

Now, the bright lights will shine down on him Sunday as he tries to win the 49ers franchise its sixth Super Bowl title. Something Aikman, and Belichick, believe he can do.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.