49ers

49ers players aren't surprised by Robert Saleh's wild sideline passion

49ers players aren't surprised by Robert Saleh's wild sideline passion

SANTA CLARA — It was impossible to turn on a sports television show or log onto social media without seeing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh fist pumping after the 49ers' 20-7 win Sunday over the Rams. 

It might be a new thing for fans to see, but players say he’s been this passionate as long as they’ve known him. 

“That’s probably the first time you guys have caught it, but he’s always losing his mind,” 49ers defensive back K’waun Williams told NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s normal. We’re used to it by now. He’s always had that great energy.” 

After Sunday’s game in Los Angeles, Saleh admitted that he gets so excited during huge defensive plays that he momentarily loses all sense of time.  

“I’m not going to lie, I black out during those moments,” Saleh said. “I get excited for the guys and their success. When they make big plays, I feel like I’m right there with them. When we fail, I’m right there with them too. So, we’re always together.”

The 49ers defense has dominated through five games. Saleh is now being mentioned as a possible future head coach candidate, when just months ago, football pundits said his job could be in jeopardy.

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman isn’t surprised in the quick change of public opinion, he’s seen it before. 

“It’s football,” Sherman said. “That’s how quickly things can change. He was a good coach before, even when they were scapegoating him. You can’t scheme for everything. You can’t scheme for injuries and mental mistakes and that’s what was happening out there.” 

In 2018, the 49ers defense had a record-low takeaway percentage and earned reputation of giving up huge chunk plays to opponents. Sherman said that wasn’t because of a change in Saleh, it was just mental mistakes by individuals trying to do too much, trying to save the day. 

“That’s what I appreciate about this year is that all we are doing is what he is telling us to do,”  Sherman said. “We’re just playing the scheme that he calls. If last year everyone would have just played the scheme that he called, we would have been a top-eight defense in terms of yardage gained, red zone percentage and third downs because it’s Saleh. 

“It’s a good scheme and he knows how to call a game." 

[RELATED: Shanahan busts out jokes leading into 49ers vs. Washington]

Maybe it’s a little more maturity from what was a young roster over the past two seasons. Maybe it’s trust that’s grown between the players knowing that everyone will simply take care of their responsibilities instead of trying to be a hero. 

Regardless of what has shifted to change the trajectory of the 49ers defense, the players expect to see that same enthusiastic Saleh losing his mind on the sidelines. 

“That just shows the passion and the love he has for our guys when we’re out there executing which is great," Williams said. “He’s been the same. The scheme is the same. It’s just that everybody is on their job and we’re just clicking on all cylinders. I guess we’re just seeing the dividends payoff now.” 

How Emmanuel Sanders trade helped 49ers, likely hurt Patriots' offense

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How Emmanuel Sanders trade helped 49ers, likely hurt Patriots' offense

Two of the NFL’s best teams in 2019, the New England Patriots and 49ers, both faced a similar problem as the trade deadline approached.

The seemingly well-oiled machines had identified an identical issue: A lack of consistent play from the wide receivers.

While both teams attempted to rectify their passing-game issues at the deadline -- the 49ers dealt a pair of draft picks to the Denver Broncos for Emmanuel Sanders while the Patriots used a second-round pick to acquire Mohamed Sanu from Atlanta -- the results weren’t exactly analogous for the two contenders.

Sanders just completed a dominant performance in New Orleans, catching seven passes for 157 yards and a touchdown -- he threw for one, too. Meanwhile, Sanu caught just one pass for 13 yards in Week 14 as New England suffered a home loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Since Oct. 22, the day both players found their new homes, Sanders is averaging 10.44 receiving yards per target. Sanu? The former Falcon is averaging just 4.66 yards per target.

The 49ers reportedly balked at the price Atlanta wanted for Sanu, but the Patriots might have been better off bringing Sanders in, according to The Athletic’s Mike Sando.

"Sanu has been a solid receiver for a long time, but not as much of a downfield threat. Over the past four seasons, Sanders holds a 67-44 edge over Sanu in passes gaining more than 15 yards, despite Sanu playing four additional games. Sanu could have been a natural fit in San Francisco given that Shanahan was previously his offensive coordinator in Atlanta. He might even be flourishing there, given San Francisco’s superior surrounding talent, including George Kittle. The fit has been questionable in New England.”

The 49ers also have an obvious advantage in fielding George Kittle, who continues to cement his status as one of the NFL’s top tight-ends week in and week out.

[RELATED: Where 49ers, Raiders stand in NFL power rankings now]

But imagine what Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady could have whipped up with Emmanuel Sanders stretching the field.

This might go down as a rare mistake in player personnel from the Patriots’ front office, and it also might just be the move that propels the 49ers into playing February football.

Chris Simms breaks down George Kittle's catch in 49ers' win vs. Saints

Chris Simms breaks down George Kittle's catch in 49ers' win vs. Saints

George Kittle made the most significant play of the NFL’s Week 14 slate, catching a short fourth-down pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and willing his way into field-goal range.

The herculean effort from Kittle set kicker Robbie Gould up for a game-winning 30-yard field goal to give San Francisco a crucial 48-46 victory in New Orleans that propelled the 49ers back to the top of the NFC standings.

Unsurprisingly, coach Kyle Shanahan diagrammed this play for Kittle to be the No. 1 option, and that’s exactly what happened.

“The rookie [C.J.] Gardner-Johnson is matched up 1-on-1 with Kittle,” NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said. “The beauty of this play is, a lot of times the 49ers will run an in-breaking route off of this, but here he had the option to break out and he breaks out.

“Gardner-Johnson, who’s kind of laying inside for it, now is at a disadvantage and he’s trailing behind and that becomes the completion to George Kittle.”

[RELATED: Injuries continue to pile up for 49ers after extended trip]

Kittle’s wise decision to break outside put San Francisco back into the driver’s seat for the NFC playoffs, but the 49ers will need to keep the momentum going as the final weeks of the season roll on in order to secure the home-field advantage NFL teams so desperately crave come postseason time.