SANTA CLARA -- Starting with his first gaffe Sunday, it seemed inevitable the 49ers would immediately replace newly promoted cornerback Brian Allen with either backup Ken Webster or veteran Ahkello Witherspoon.
That wasn't the case.
In the 49ers’ 43-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Levi's Stadium, coach Kyle Shanahan suffered through four mistake-ridden defensive series before benching Allen.
Allen not only allowed four of the Dolphins' 10 biggest plays (including a touchdown), but the 26-year-old committed two very costly penalties -- a horse collar tackle and defensive pass interference -- on Miami scoring drives.
Injuries across the board in the secondary influenced the Shanahan’s decision to hold off on playing Witherspoon.
“Just because how down we were going into the game,” Shanahan explained on a video conference call with reporters after the game. “We got [Allen] off the practice squad this week just because of the injuries we had. Webster was his backup. Ahkello tried to go this week, but he was too tight to go.
“Because of our low numbers, we still dressed him for emergency. So, we were trying to hold out, see how long we could go through with that.”
The 49ers are without Richard Sherman (calf), Emmanuel Moseley (concussion) and K’Waun Williams (hip, knee). Witherspoon has been nursing a hamstring injury for weeks, but he saw what was happening on the field and felt the need to do his part.
“With Allen struggling a little bit, we were going to go with Webster,” Shanahan said. “That was the plan going in, but Ahkello went up to the defensive staff sometime in the second quarter and he told them that he felt good, he was ready to go and wanted to go in for the challenge.”
Shanahan said that Witherspoon didn’t feel 100 percent, but the coach was thankful for the cornerback helping out the defense when it was needed.
The 49ers defense should have reinforcements on the way. Sherman likely will be ready to return to practice this week, as well as Moseley, who recently saw a specialist for his head injury. While nothing is confirmed, Shanahan hopes to have both back in practice as the 49ers prepare for a visit from the surging Los Angeles Rams.