49ers

Richard Sherman, DeForest Buckner lead 49ers' defense through Week 10

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USATSI

Richard Sherman, DeForest Buckner lead 49ers' defense through Week 10

Editor’s note: The 49ers break for the bye week with a 2-8 record. This is part of a series that recaps the first 10 games with an eye to the future. In this installment, we look at the best players on the defense. 

During the 49ers 2018 offseason, the unexpected happened. The team signed long-time Seahawks nemesis, cornerback Richard Sherman. Maybe the bigger surprise is how valuable he has been to the team, or maybe it should have been expected all along. 

While Sherman has been gradually returning to full health, after repairing his torn Achilles, he has been a mentor and a role model to the young secondary. He has been seen coaching players up in practices as well as after plays where coverage has been blown. 

Sherman has been quietly putting together a great season statistically. While he hasn’t had the splashy pass break ups or interceptions, he has been rarely targeted by opposing quarterbacks. 

[CHAN: What has made George Kittle the 49ers' best offensive player in 2018]

According to ProFootballFocus.com, in eight games Sherman has only allowed 11 receptions on the 24 times he has been targeted through 304 coverage snaps. That gives him 27.6 snaps per reception which ranks the highest in the league. 

Sherman has done all of this while not being 100-percent health wise. Coach Kyle Shanahan remarked how valuable that has been to the team. 

“The thing that's been great about Richard,” Shanahan said, “just showing other guys how you can play through things when you're not 100 percent and when you do, you've got to still play at a high level that helps you win, and he's done that in a number of situations.” 

[MAIOCCO: Why 49ers' biggest disappointment is their second-year defensive players]

Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner is the second stand out on the defense. He has registered six sacks on the season which matches his personal high from 2016, and there are still six games left. 

Buckner has been a bright spot in the 49ers struggling pass rush. Like Sherman, he has been productive without a huge amount of glamorous statistics. Buckner regularly gets pressure on opposing quarterbacks as well as forcing them to move out of the pocket without necessarily registering a sack. 

Along with Buckner’s six sacks, he has gotten 11 hits on opposing quarterbacks and eight tackles for a loss. He is regularly double teamed which limits his stats.

Earlier in the season, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh spoke about the challenge of Buckner facing double teams. 

“DeFo, he plays his butt off, man,” Saleh said. “He gets one-on-ones and he does a good job. Obviously, teams pay a lot of attention to him and that’s where, as a group, we all have to step up. 

“If someone becomes a problem, other than to an offense, it’s just going to open up one-on-ones for a lot more people. So, Buck is doing well. Obviously, he wants production, but he knows that he’s producing in other ways and he’s doing a lot of different things that help out this defense. So, he’s definitely something that teams have to deal with.”

Why 49ers couldn't get football to George Kittle to break NFL record

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USATSI

Why 49ers couldn't get football to George Kittle to break NFL record

SANTA CLARA -- The task seemed simple enough.

George Kittle needed just 5 yards to break the NFL record for single-game receiving by a tight end. And he had 30 minutes to get it done.

But after a seven-catch, 210-yard first half, Kittle was held without a reception in the second half of the 49ers’ 20-14 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

“The only people that were happy were probably Shannon Sharpe and my dad,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday.

Sharpe owns the single-game record for a tight end with 214 receiving yards, and set that mark while with the Denver Broncos in 2002. His coach was Mike Shanahan, Kyle’s father. In that particular game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 20, 2002, Sharpe caught one pass for 8 yards in overtime. The Broncos won 37-34.

So, Kittle does have the NFL record for most receiving yards from a tight end in regulation. But through two quarters, it appeared he would be no problem shattering Sharpe’s record.

So, what prevented the 49ers from getting the record for Kittle?

“First of all, I wish that we did, and I definitely could have just said, ‘Hey, my goal in this half is to get George the record,’ ” Kyle Shanahan said. “We had a number of plays called to him. One, we had a lookey call to him, and he got doubled, so you go to Dante (Pettis) on it. That was good.

“Fourth play of it, we had a play called, and they got under it in zone coverage, so we threw it away. After that, I think you have to think in a very humble way when you call games. You try to win the game, and you try to do what’s right.”

There even was a play call in which Shanahan said he wanted quarterback Nick Mullens to get the ball to Kittle on a shovel pass.

“It was covered,” Shanahan said. “If we would have forced it, then he would have lost 3 yards, and now he would have needed 8 yards instead of 5."

[RELATED: Even Broncos sing Kittle's praises after big game]

The 49ers ran 66 total plays in the game, but just 27 of them came in the second half, as the team had difficulty getting first downs and staying on the field.

“I thought it would happen naturally throughout the game,” Shanahan said.

“Every play mattered there at the end, so you’re just trying to call plays to try to win the game, not to break a record. That’s what you feel bad about. I wish he could have broken the record. He deserved to.”

49ers' Pierre Garçon will have season-ending knee surgery, head to IR

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AP

49ers' Pierre Garçon will have season-ending knee surgery, head to IR

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon will undergo a season-ending procedure on his knee on Tuesday. 

Garçon, 32, missed the past four games with a knee condition and will go on injured reserve this week, coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday.

The veteran wideout appeared in eight games this season and caught 24 passes for 286 yards and one touchdown, but Garçon’s future with the 49ers is in question. He is scheduled to earn $6 million in salary and bonuses next season.

The 49ers have three wide receivers on the practice squad who are candidates to be promoted for the final three games: Victor Bolden Jr., Max McCaffrey and Steven Dunbar.

[RELATED: NFL Power Rankings Week 15]

In other injury news, defensive end Cassius Marsh reported to the team facility with concussion symptoms on Monday and was placed in the NFL’s return-to-play protocol.

Cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon (ankle) and Tarvarius Moore (shoulder) are day-to-day. Running back Matt Breida (ankle), safety Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder), cornerback K’Waun Williams (knee), and linebackers Mark Nzeocha (groin) and Malcolm Smith (Achilles), will be re-checked on Wednesday.

Rookie defensive lineman Kentavius Street, a fourth-round pick who tore his ACL in the pre-draft process, might practice this week, Shanahan said. Street remains on the non-football injury list. He will not play this season, but the 49ers can get him on the practice field for the final three weeks.