49ers

Heavier workload? Snaps only slightly up for 49ers' defense

Heavier workload? Snaps only slightly up for 49ers' defense

Coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced high-tempo offense did not dramatically change the workload for either side of the ball in his first season with the 49ers.

Kelly admittedly dialed back the speed with which his offense played this season – presumably so the abundance of three-and-outs would give his defense a little more recovery time on the sideline.

As a result, the 49ers’ defense is playing only 1.5 snaps per game more than it did a year ago. This year, the 49ers’ defense has been on the field for an average of 69.1 plays per game. In 2015, the 49ers’ defense was on the field for 67.6 snaps a game.

Through 15 games this season, the 49ers’ offense averaged 62.6 plays per game and a time of possession of 26 minutes, 30 seconds per game.

Last season under head coach Jim Tomsula and offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, the 49ers averaged 60.6 plays per game and a time of possession of 26:20.

This season, the 49ers have been more effective running the ball. Carlos Hyde appeared in 13 games and rushed for 988 yards before leaving in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams with a knee injury that is expected to sideline him for the season finale.

With Hyde available for just seven games in 2015, the 49ers rushed for 1,544 yards as a team. The 49ers have 1,957 yards rushing this season entering Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.

Another noticeable difference has been on third downs. The 49ers ranked 31st in the league, converting just 30.5 percent of their third downs in 2015. This year, the 49ers have improved to 36 percent on third downs -- but still rank 25th in the NFL.

49ers notes: Kyle Shanahan has regrets about final defensive series vs. Giants

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USATSI

49ers notes: Kyle Shanahan has regrets about final defensive series vs. Giants

The 49ers needed a stop. They needed to generate pressure on New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. And they knew there was no threat of the Giants running the ball.

So the 49ers put their best pass-rushers on the field in hopes of preserving a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas, first-round draft picks in 2015 and ’17, watched the crucial series from the sideline. And coach Kyle Shanahan admitted a day later that he would have liked Armstead and Thomas to get more opportunities.

“You want certain guys to get a certain amount of rushes,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That has to do with situations and personnel groupings and what down and distance they're in. And when it was all said and done, they didn't have enough opportunities, I thought, in nickel. And I'd like to see them have more.”

The 49ers failed to hold onto their fourth-quarter lead, and Manning engineered a game-winning drive, culminating in a 3-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard, for a 27-23 victory over the 49ers on Monday night.

The 49ers deployed five different defensive linemen during the course of the most important defensive series of the game. Twice, the 49ers’ personnel grouping consisted of a three-man line.

DeForest Buckner played all 13 snaps at an inside position, while Cassius Marsh lined up for all 13 snaps at defensive end. Ronald Blair rushed the passer on 11 plays (seven at end, four at tackle). Sheldon Day played seven snaps as an inside pass-rusher, while Dekoda Watson had six snaps outside.

Shanahan said the 49ers have mostly kept Marsh and Blair as their outside rushers, while they have tried to find another inside player to pair with Buckner.

“Buck's the guy we've kept the most consistent,” Shanahan said. “Our edge rushers have been the same, but they've been rotating throughout the year. But our inside guys, we've rotated pretty much between three guys after Buck.”

Through 10 games, Armstead has three sacks, while Thomas has just one.

49ers expect three starters back

Linebacker Reuben Foster, safety Jaquiski Tartt and wide receiver Pierre Garçon are expected to return to the lineup when the 49ers play in Week 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Foster (hamstring) and Tartt (shoulder) sat out the past two games with injuries sustained in the 49ers’ loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 28. Garçon missed Monday’s game with a knee injury.

“We anticipate getting them back to practice next week when we start,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers also expect wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (head) and nickel back K’Waun Williams (shoulder) to be available. Goodwin was not diagnosed with a concussion on Monday, and he checked out symptom-free the next day, Shanahan said.

This ‘n’ that

Running back Matt Breida has been a pleasant surprise. As the regular season approached, it was unclear what role Breida would have behind Jerick McKinnon. Shanahan shed some light on what he wants to see on offense next season. When asked if he envisions both Breida and McKinnon getting on the field together in 2019, Shanahan said, “I envisioned it this year, so that won't change next year.” . . .

Rookie receiver Dante Pettis saw his most extensive playing time since returning from a knee injury. He was not much of a factor, as he caught four passes for just 12 yards. He played 41 snaps of offense. He also had just one punt return for 1 yard.

“That was his first full week of healthy practice,” Shanahan said. “The week before he got two straight practices in, but it was all the walk-through stuff for the Thursday night game.

“He did a decent job. By no means was it perfect. I expect him to get a lot better as this goes. He's another guy I’m putting a lot of pressure on here in the last six weeks, and I want him to take some huge steps forward. But, at least playing some, getting out of the game healthy, I think he finally has the opportunity to do that.”

49ers-Seahawks flexed out of Week 13 Sunday Night Football slot

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AP

49ers-Seahawks flexed out of Week 13 Sunday Night Football slot

The 49ers were revealed to be prime-time darlings when the NFL schedule was announced in the spring.

But, ultimately, the 49ers played themselves out of two of their scheduled five nationally televised prime-time games.

The 49ers’ Week 13 game at the Seattle Seahawks, originally scheduled for Sunday night, Dec. 2, was demoted to a 1:25 p.m. kickoff, the NFL announced on Wednesday. The game will be televised on FOX.

The 49ers enter their bye week with a 2-8 record. The Seahawks are second place in the NFC West with a 4-5 record. The only attraction to the game was the return of 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman to Seattle, where he played his first seven NFL seasons.

The Los Angeles Chargers (7-2) at the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1) takes over in the prime-time slot for the nationally televised game on NBC. 

The 49ers previously were moved out of the flexible Sunday night slot for their Week 7 game against the Los Angeles Rams.

The 49ers played three prime time games this season, including a mandatory Thursday night game in Week 9 against the Raiders. The 49ers also played two Monday night games, losing to the Green Bay Packers, 33-30, in Week 8, and to the New York Giants, 27-23, earlier this week.