49ers

Bill Callahan says Washington will 'need a lot of help' with 49ers' D-line

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Bill Callahan says Washington will 'need a lot of help' with 49ers' D-line

Bill Callahan is a perfect 1-0 as Washington's interim coach since taking over for the fired Jay Gruden. But he knows facing the undefeated 49ers will be a bit different than going up against the winless Miami Dolphins.

That's especially true when it comes to San Francisco's defensive line. Callahan knows his offense could be in for a long day if they don't have a great game in the trenches. 

“Yeah, the challenge is great,” Callahan said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “And the matchups, yeah, we’re going to need a lot of help, to say the least.”

The 49ers' defense ranks second in yards allowed per game (237.4), first in passing yards allowed per game (150.2), sixth in rushing yards allowed per game (87.2) and second in points allowed per game (12.8). Washington, on the other hand, has one of the worst offenses in the NFL. Through six weeks, they rank 28th in yards per game (286.5), 26th in passing yards per game (205), 25th in rushing yards per game (81.5) and 30th in points per game (15). 

San Francisco's defensive line is stacked with former first-round draft picks, while Washington's best offensive lineman -- Trent Williams -- has sat out the whole season so far over a contract dispute. 

Whether it's Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner or Arik Armstead, the 49ers can attack the QB in multiple ways. Callahan knows he can't focus on just one player. 

“When they line up across the board, there’s just not one individual you can hone in on,” Callahan said. “Like when we played the Bears, you have Khalil Mack that you’re focused on. But this is a little bit different because there’s so much quality depth and outstanding players.

[RELATED: Bosa, Ford have been NFL's most productive pass rushers]

"It will be a real challenge for our protection unit.”

The 49ers have 17 sacks this year, and will look to increase that number on Sunday.

Five 49ers to watch in Week 11: Jimmy Garoppolo must step up vs. Cardinals

Five 49ers to watch in Week 11: Jimmy Garoppolo must step up vs. Cardinals

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers take the field on Sunday looking to rebound from a loss for the first time this season.

The 49ers (8-1) still lead the NFC West by a half-game over the Seattle Seahawks, who snapped San Francisco's winning streak with a 27-24 victory in overtime on Monday night.

Now, the 49ers will face the Arizona Cardinals for the second time in three weeks.

The clubs met on Oct. 31, a game in which the 49ers hold on for a 28-25 victory over the Cardinals. Here are five key players for the 49ers in this Week 11 matchup:

5. LT Justin Skule

The sixth-round draft pick is back in the starting lineup after veteran left tackle Joe Staley underwent surgery to repair a dislocated and fractured finger. Skule started six games earlier this season in place of Staley before he was inactive Monday night against the Seahawks.

Skule surrendered four sacks and 13 total pressures in his six starts, and he will go up against one of the more difficult assignments on the schedule – another matchup with Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones.

Jones has registered double-digit sacks in five consecutive seasons, including this year with 11.5. Jones and Tampa Bay’s Shaquil Barrett are tied for the lead in the NFL.

Coach Kyle Shanahan will do all he can to take the heat off Skule, but there will be plenty of instances in which he must be able to hold up one-on-one against one of the best in the league.

4. SS Jaquiski Tartt

The 49ers saw what worked for the Cardinals in Week 9, and you can be sure the formula will remain mostly the same on Sunday.

Arizona’s offensive game plan called for a heavy dose of running back Kenyan Drake, both as a runner and pass-catcher. Drake had 15 rushing attempts for 110 yards and a touchdown. He also caught all four of his pass targets for 52 yards.

Tartt will have major responsibilities in both areas. He will play in the box on the early downs, where he can be the eighth defender against the run. He must also quickly diagnose the Cardinals’ screen game and keep those plays to a minimum.

The 49ers’ pass rush was held mostly at bay against the Cardinals because coach Kliff Kingsbury designed a game plan that called for quarterback Kyler Murray to take short drops and deliver the ball quickly. Tartt might have an opportunity to jump some of those shallow routes.

3. WR Deebo Samuel

The 49ers have not been able to find consistency at wide receiver, aside from newly acquired Emmanuel Sanders. But Sanders is questionable for Sunday with a rib injury. If he even plays, he might not be at 100 percent.

Samuel is showing signs of being a trusted target for Jimmy Garoppolo as a rookie.

Samuel, a second-round draft pick from South Carolina, has 30 catches for 339 yards and one touchdown. He had a strong showing on Monday night, but had a bad drop on a play that could have turned into a long touchdown.

With the 49ers not finding reliable answers with Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis, in particular, San Francisco will need more and more production from Samuel.

2. LB Fred Warner

The season-ending injury to linebacker Kwon Alexander left a large void in the middle of the 49ers’ defense.

Fred Warner did a good job of compensating for the loss of Alexander, who proved to be a solid playmaker and an invaluable member of the team for the energy he brings to the defense. On Monday, Warner did it all.

Warner registered 10 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He was disappointed in his own play on Oct. 31 when he missed two tackles and made some assignment errors in the first meeting against the Cardinals.

The next step for Warner is becoming a reliable player game in and game out.

"He had a very good game and now it goes back to consistency being the truest measure of performance,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He’s got to go stack it up and do it again.”

1. QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo cannot do it all by himself, but he’s going to have to do more than usual.

Garoppolo had his best game on Oct. 31 against the Cardinals. He threw for 317 yards and four touchdowns in the 49ers’ 28-25 victory in Glendale, Arizona

Then, he followed that up with a stinker against the Seattle Seahawks. To be fair, Garoppolo did not receive much support from his teammates on offense. The pass protection was problematic, and the receivers had plenty of difficulties holding onto the ball.

[RELATED: Lynch frustrated by 49ers receivers' drops but won't panic]

But Garoppolo was also off the mark on many of throws where his receivers should have come up with catches. He was also helped out by Seattle’s defense, which did not hold onto a would-be interception or two.

The 49ers do not figure to have tight end George Kittle available, and Emmanuel Sanders’ availability might not be known until Sunday morning. Garoppolo will have to show trust in the team’s other targets, and they'll have to hold up their end of the bargain, too.

Steve Young gives take on Kyle Shanahan's overtime strategy vs. Seahawks

Steve Young gives take on Kyle Shanahan's overtime strategy vs. Seahawks

Hindsight is always 20/20.

Kyle Shanahan knows that, but that didn't stop the critics for coming after his play-calling after the 49ers' 27-24 overtime loss to the Seahawks at Levi's Stadium in Week 9. 

During the overtime period, Shanahan elected not to go for fourth-and-1 from the Seahawks' 29-yard line, opting instead to trot out rookie kicked Chase McLaughlin for a 47-yard attempt. The kick never had a shot and the Seahawks had life. But the 49ers' defense stood tall and forced a punt, giving quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo the ball back with 1:50 to go.

Shanahan, always the aggressor, opted to throw the ball three times -- all of which were incomplete -- burning only 17 seconds off the clock before punting the ball back the Seahawks. Quarterback Russell Wilson marched Seattle into field-goal range and Jason Myers drilled the kick to give the Niners their first loss.

Fans were critical of Shanahan for not running the ball, and giving the Seahawks time to win the game. Cornerback Richard Sherman doesn't have time for "armchair coaches" who want to play for ties. Niners legend Steve Young wants to remind fans that Shanahan always has been an aggressive coach -- that's part of the reason the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI -- so fans can't all of a sudden expect something different.

"Remember, Kyle Shanahan in many ways, the Super Bowl got away from the whole team, but him especially, because he’s so aggressive,” Young told KNBR. “And when we signed him that’s what you get. Don’t all of the sudden go, ‘aw I wish that he would’ve played for the tie.'

"I'm just saying that we signed a guy that goes for broke," Young continued before pivoting to the fourth-and-1 decision. "To your other point, why didn't you go for it on fourth and a half yard? I was sitting there and this young kid shows up and splits three right down the middle. You couldn't pick a side on any of the kicks. Right down the middle. To win the game, you are so -- it's gone back and forth. You'd won it three times, you'd lost it three times, you just want to end it. I get it."

While Young understands the decisions, he would have gone for it on fourth-and-1 and would have at least run the ball once on the final possession.

"I think I would’ve gone for the half yard. I think. That’s what I felt, that was my instinct," Young said. “I would like them to have 35 less seconds if we have to hand them the ball back. To hand them the ball back with having only taking 22 or whatever it was off -- you would never repeat that. You would never say, 'There's 1:27 at the end of overtime, I'm not going to hand it back with 1:05.' That's not part of the plan."

[RELATED: Warner does it all for 49ers' defense in Kwon's absence]

In the end, Shanahan's decisions backfired, but if McLaughlin makes the kick like he did his first three on the night then the conversation is totally different.

Shanahan is one of the NFL's best offensive minds, and the 49ers love his aggressiveness when calling plays. Sometimes things just don't break your way.