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Defensive Reactions
August 11 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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The 49ers seemed to have a ‘bend but don’t break’ approach to this weekend’s bout against the Chiefs, and for the most part it paid off. After all the team only gave up 17 points and had to deal with four turnovers, two nice kick returns and one terrible kick off.

The first string defense needed a series to adjust to the Chiefs game plan. The 49ers were blanketing the Chief receivers, but was being beaten by mismatched coverages on tight ends and running backs in the middle of the field. After giving up a touchdown on the first drive, the defense held still until late in the third quarter. By that time, the starters were well off the field.

The defensive line was able to exert better pressure this week on the quarterback. Bryant Young, Reggie McGrew, Chike Okeafor and Sean Moran were among the notables. Moran in particular was making some nice plays, but many of his snaps came after the Chiefs first string offensive line had been pulled. Moran even forced a fumble, which the 49ers did not recover.

The linebacking core was quite impressive. Julian Peterson and Derek Smith were making plays left right and center. Jamie Winborn and Jeff Ulbrich were not that far behind. This group is blazing fast across the board. Saleem Rasheed was again in the game for many snaps. He’s very quick, and had a more solid performance than last week. Clearly he is adjusting to the speed of the game. Frank Strong is making a real bid for the sixth linebacker position. Strong had a sack, and kept pressure on the quarterback on the blitz. He was also good in stuffing the run and in coverage. Kawaguchi did not appear to log any play time other than on special teams.

The defensive backs looked pretty good. Jason Webster gave up one tough reception, and Ahmed Plummer was solid. Mike Rumph looked especially good when working with the first string defense. Rumph had a good overall game. The Chiefs first touchdown however, came in what appeared to be part of his zone. The backs were playing lots of cover two defenses, a rather hard defense to run. Clearly having so many returning players has given the 49ers the ability to run this defense effectively early in the off-season. It may also be a preview of what the 49ers intend to do against the Rams, as the Chiefs run a similar offense. On the depth chart, Jimmy Williams really stood out. Late in the game, Williams was making lots of good defensive plays. Rashad Holman and Ronnie Heard also had their fare share of good plays. Teddy Gaines will have a tough time making this year’s roster. He doesn’t appear to be quite as quick as the 49ers may have thought when they drafted him - of course he may just be overwhelmed as a rookie at this level.

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