Robert Saleh

How Robert Saleh's 49ers defense, pass rush dominated Raiders in blowout

How Robert Saleh's 49ers defense, pass rush dominated Raiders in blowout

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers’ missing pass rush came out from hiding Thursday night, allowing the defense to manhandle the Raiders in their 34-3 win in the Battle of the Bay

The 49ers registered seven sacks of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, and added one more late in the game against backup A.J. McCarron. That was the first time the 49ers registered eight sacks in a game since 2010 when they faced the Rams.

Prior to the game, the 49ers had 16 sacks in their previous eight games combined. 

The 49ers spread the wealth with five players registering sacks: Cassius Marsh (2.5), Dekoda Watson (1.5), Solomon Thomas (1.0), DeForest Buckner (1.0), Ronald Blair (1.0), team (1.0). 

Buckner remarked that it was a team effort that helped everyone succeed. 

“I think guys were just going out there and feeding off each other,” Buckner said. “I think everyone was just energized. We came out with a lot of energy.

"We had Dekoda back, and he had some action. It was fun just seeing him out there playing. He has been wanting to get out there all year. Ronnie had a couple, Cassius had a couple. Everyone was just feeding off each other and having fun out there.” 

The defensive line beat up the Raiders’ struggling offensive line that lost its starting left tackle, Kolton Miller, to a knee injury in the opening drive of the game. The 49ers also hit Carr nine times and were able to pressure him on 14 of his 30 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Coach Kyle Shanahan gave credit to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh when asked about the improved pass rush. 

“I thought Saleh did a good job mixing up his calls,” Shanahan said. “I thought we did a good job mixing up our stunts. I thought our guys won the one-on-one battles.

“It’s not just the rush, I think our guys held up in coverage well, and when people aren’t open right away and you make that quarterback take a couple of hitches, it’s just tying both those guys together up front and in back.

"I think they had an all-around good game.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman happily joked about not being part of the pass rush this week after he registered a sack in Arizona. 

“I didn’t get a chance to be a part of the pass rush this week,” Sherman said. “I am kind of upset about that, but I was happy with the way we performed.”

The 49ers held the Raiders to 242 total yards. Derek Carr mustered just 140 yards in the air — the fewest allowed by the 49ers since they held the Bears to 85 in December 2017. 

Sherman also gave credit to fellow cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who has struggled in his second season. 

“Obviously, this is his fourth good game in a row and he stacked them,” Sherman said. “A lot is made when he is having a bad game, but when he is locking guys down and not giving up a lot of catches and playing soundly, there is not a lot of noise being made.

"Obviously, corner is one of those positions that gets under-appreciated when you are playing great.”

The 49ers get some much-needed rest before they play their second prime-time game in a row. Their next game is a Monday night matchup with the New York Giants in Week 10.

Four 49ers players, coaches to watch vs. Arizona Cardinals in Week 8

Four 49ers players, coaches to watch vs. Arizona Cardinals in Week 8

The 49ers might be hopelessly out of the playoff picture before the mid-point of the season, but coach Kyle Shanahan believes the team can still use the remaining games to answer some questions and continue building.

“Whether it’s good times or bad times, I promise they’ll end up being for a good reason,” Shanahan said on “49ers Game Plan,” which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

“We’ll be better from this.”

But, first, the 49ers just want to be better than the Arizona Cardinals (1-6) on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.

Here are four individuals who must have solid games for the 49ers to snap their five-game losing streak:

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh

This is a game where the 49ers should have the tactical advantage with Saleh, who has come under fire for the team’s defense. The Cardinals’ offense ranks last in the league, which prompted first-year coach Steve Wilks to fire coordinator Mike McCoy.

Former NFL quarterback Byron Leftwich takes over as the offensive coordinator and play-caller. He has very little experience after first joining the Cardinals as a coaching intern in 2016.

The 49ers do not know what to expect from the Cardinals’ offense in Leftwich’s first game at the controls. Arizona would likely look more similar to the scheme run under previous coach Bruce Arians. They will likely try to feature more of running back David Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

“Obviously, it’s going to be very important for in-game adjustments to see what they do in-game, but it’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with,” Saleh said.

Saleh has to get the 49ers on the same page. The 49ers have not played with much speed and emotion, and that is something Saleh must fix. The 49ers have experienced too many breakdowns, while not generating enough takeaways.

QB C.J. Beathard

It all starts with the quarterback.

The 49ers have been the worst team in the league at turning the ball over. Beathard has not done a good job of taking care of the ball since taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.

In four starts, Beathard has thrown seven interceptions and lost three fumbles. In his second start, he was responsible for four of the team’s five turnovers in a 28-18 loss to the Cardinals.

The 49ers are not good enough to win games when they lose the turnover battle. That is where this game will likely begin and end.

LB Reuben Foster

The second-year linebacker has been a disappointment this season. He simply has not made many impactful plays while also struggling as a tackler. Despite sitting out the first two games of the season due to an NFL suspension, Foster is second-worst in the league with 12 missed tackles.

Foster has also yielded 20 completions on 27 targets for 228 yards and two touchdowns.

Foster has been nursing a right shoulder condition for the past several weeks. But he said he is good enough to keep playing, so it is up to him to make sure he still plays at a high level.

“All I can really do is fight for my team and fight for myself,” Foster said. “This is a game that I love and I’m not going to let a shoulder hold me back.”

The 49ers have generated just three takeaways this season, and Foster has to be more of a ball hawk and difference-maker for a struggling defense.

TE George Kittle

Not enough players have performed at a high level. And many of the team’s promising rookies of a year ago have taken significant steps backward.

Kittle is the exception. He has taken his game to a new level, as he leads the team with 32 receptions for 527 yards and two touchdowns.

“I think he’s just a good route runner,” said Beathard, who played with Kittle in college at Iowa. “He’s talented. He’s athletic so he can turn little plays into big ones. Obviously, we’ve had chemistry going back to college so I can kind of read him and know what he’s doing pretty easily. But, he’s just a really talented athlete and player and he’s doing really well.”

Moreover, Kittle has been playing with a lot of fire. His mindset must rub off on his teammates or the second half of the season could be a long one. Kittle has tried to set the tone for the 49ers. He will have to continue to play with passion in order for the passion to rub off on others.

Richard Sherman, Kyle Shanahan don't point fingers on 49ers' defensive lapses

Richard Sherman, Kyle Shanahan don't point fingers on 49ers' defensive lapses

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman is frustrated by the elementary mistakes that continue to occur within the 49ers’ defense. But there is one person who does not deserve the blame, he said.

Sherman and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan offered support for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh following the 49ers’ 33-30 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night at Lambeau Field.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers rallied his team with 10 points in the final two minutes, including a drive that got Green Bay into position for Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal as time expired.

“He’s called great games, and he continues to call great games,” Sherman said of Saleh. “We got to find a way to reward him.”

Likewise, Shanahan absolved Saleh of responsibility for the breakdowns, which marred an otherwise solid showing for the defense against one of the great quarterbacks in NFL history.

“Saleh is very good at what he does, and I have a ton of confidence in him and I have ton of confidence in our scheme,” Shanahan said. “They made the plays to win at the end that we didn’t.”

Cornerback Jimmie Ward, who started and played well throughout the game, was sidelined late in the game with a hamstring injury, Shanahan said. With Ward on the sideline, Rodgers targeted Greg Mabin on the 16-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams to tie the score with 1:55 remaining in regulation.

Rodgers threw to Mabin’s side for completions of 8, 19 and 19 yards to set up the 27-yard field goal to win the game after the 49ers' offense had a three-and-out. The 49ers did not take away the sideline, allowing the Packers to pick up yardage without burning much clock on their game-winning march.

It appeared the 49ers had forced the Packers to punt with 43 seconds remaining in regulation when DeForest Buckner sacked Rodgers for a 4-yard loss on a third-and-15 play. But Sherman was called for illegal contact to give Green Bay a fresh set of downs.

“It’s part of going against the best quarterback in football,” Sherman said. “You give him a chance at the end. I can’t have that penalty and give him a shot. However I might feel about it, I have to find a way to win that play without getting a flag. They gave him a shot to win the game at the end, and that’s all he needs.”

The 49ers had a busted coverage on their first defensive play after the offense scored a touchdown on the initial possession of the game. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was wide open for a 60-yard gain. Last week, the 49ers had a busted coverage that went for a 75-yard touchdown in a 28-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

“At the end of the day, if you call the perfect call and they don’t run the play the way you called it, what else can you do?” Sherman said. “A guy has man, and you don’t take the man, and it’s going to lead to a big play. Aaron would find him if he was covered.

“We started playing sound football. When you just do your job in this defense, it’s really hard to beat. On the first freakin’ play, again, we bust. We bust a simple coverage. It’s a simple adjustment, and we bust, and you can’t play like that. Later on in the game, another one. We bust. When we play sound, we’re really difficult to beat.”

Said free safety Adrian Colbert: “At times during the game when we were stopping them on third down, it was because we were communicating. When we communicate, we play really well and really fast.”

The Packers failed on their first six third-down opportunities and ended up converting four of their final seven chances. Rodgers completed 25 of 46 passes for 425 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.