49ers safeties prepare for challenge of facing Tom Brady

49ers safeties prepare for challenge of facing Tom Brady

SANTA CLARA – Every member of the 49ers’ defense will be tested and taxed on Sunday when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots come to town.

But safeties Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid figure to have the biggest challenges awaiting them at Levi’s Stadium.

Bethea, an 11-year veteran, knows what to expect. Reid can only guess, as he prepares to face the Patriots for the first time in his four-year career.

As a member of the Indianapolis Colts, Bethea faced Brady eight times, including two playoff games. Bethea has intercepted Brady three times, including his first career interception in 2006. But the Patriots won five of those games.

“They’re technicians with what they do, with the coaching staff they have and from relaying that message from the coaches to the players, they hone in on what that particular scheme is for that week,” Bethea said.

“Tom Brady is going to be Tom Brady. He’s been in that offense for a while. He likes to get the ball out quick. He’ll take shots if you give it to him. They like to control the clock and whatever’s working for them on that day, they’re going to continue to do that.”

Brady sat out the first four games of the season after serving an NFL suspension resulting from the alleged deflation of footballs in the AFC Championship game in January 2015. He has come back better than ever in his five starts, completing 72.9 percent of his attempts, averaging 9.8 yards per attempt, with 12 touchdowns and one interception, and a passer rating of 125.5.

“Decision-making, his quick release, his accuracy, those are all components that make him a special player, a future Hall of Famer,” Reid said.

The 49ers enter Sunday’s game on an eight-game losing streak. The team is just one loss shy of matching the franchise-worst streak that was set in 1978. Yet, Reid said he is looking forward to the challenge of facing one of the all-time greats.

“It’s exciting,” Reid said. “It’s something I have to focus on as a safety is not giving away the coverage to him before the snap. If he knows that, it’s going to be a tough down for the entire defense. I think disguising what we’re doing is going to be important for us. After that, when the ball is snapped, we just got to make plays.”

Bethea made it to the Super Bowl as a rookie, getting past the Patriots in the AFC playoffs. In 2013, the Patriots defeated the Colts in the playoffs. No player on the 49ers has the perspective of Bethea when it comes to the Patriots.

“As a competitor, you can hate them as much as you want. But at the end of the day, you have to respect them,” Bethea said. “Year-in and year-out, they’re one of the best teams in the league, regardless of who’s out there at receiver or the defensive side of the ball. You could even see it earlier this year. When Tom wasn’t even playing quarterback, that team was still winning games. So you got to have a lot of respect for that organization.”

Kyle Shanahan explains 49ers' end-of-game play calls vs. Packers


Kyle Shanahan explains 49ers' end-of-game play calls vs. Packers

The 49ers had a chance to win the game with some production on their final three offensive possessions Monday night.

The 49ers had success on the ground with running backs Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida, but the first two of those possessions began with failed run plays.

Breida was stopped for no gain to open a series that began at their own 4-yard line. On the next possession, Mostert was stopped for a 1-yard loss when the 49ers took over at their own 23-yard line.

After Mostert’s run play, the 49ers finished the night with five consecutive pass plays in their 33-30 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. On the final play, quarterback C.J. Beathard’s pass was intercepted at the Green Bay 10-yard line. Aaron Rodgers took over, and the Packers finished it off with a game-winning field goal on the final play.

“You’re trying to win a game,” Shanahan said Tuesday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “In hindsight when it’s over, anytime something doesn’t work, whether I like my play call or not, if it doesn’t work, you always wish you did something different.

With 1:49 remaining in regulation, the 49ers took over at their own 47. Beathard hit tight end George Kittle on a 7-yard pass. Beathard’s second-down pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage. And third down resulted in Beathard’s interception.

“I felt pretty strongly that they were going to come after us and bring more than we could handle in the run game, which usually leaves open a very good slant window,” Shanahan said of the second-down play call. “That’s what I thought was the best thing at the time. But they tipped the ball. They tipped it and we didn’t get a chance to complete it, which was unfortunate.

“But when you get into third and 3 versus an all-out blitz, there’s not many runs for that. That was the play that we didn’t make right there, and that’s what happened.”

49ers sign Tom Savage to be No. 3 QB; ex-Texan started seven games in 2017


49ers sign Tom Savage to be No. 3 QB; ex-Texan started seven games in 2017

The 49ers on Tuesday signed veteran quarterback Tom Savage to be the team’s No. 3 quarterback behind starter C.J. Beathard and backup Nick Mullens.

The 49ers waived tight end Cole Wick to make room for Savage on the 53-man roster. They also released offensive lineman Zach Golditch from the practice squad.

Savage, 28, appeared in 13 games with nine starts over four seasons with the Houston Texans. He started seven games last season, completing 56.1 percent of his passes for 1,412 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. He was a fourth-round pick of the Texans in 2014.

"He’s got a strong arm. He’s a very tough player," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "He hangs in that pocket and plays the position well. I was a fan of his coming out of college. He’s gotten to play in a number of NFL games, so he’s been battle tested."

Savage and Matt Simms impressed the 49ers during a workout two days after Jimmy Garoppolo sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 3. But the 49ers opted to sign Savage because of his experience of playing last season.

The other quarterbacks who tried out were Landry Jones, E.J. Manuel, Kellen Clemens, T.J. Yates and Kyle Allen. 

"He was in a tough situation in Houston that didn’t work out for him," Shanahan said of Savage. "But I got to study him this preseason when he was in New Orleans, and they have some similarities in their offense as ours."

Savage went to camp with the New Orleans Saints this summer but was cut Sept. 1. Shanahan said Savage received praise from Saints coach Sean Payton.

Savage will wear No. 14 for the 49ers.