The NFL announced their weekly awards, and safety Antoine Bethea was named NFC defensive player of the week for Week 4. The 49ers safety had seven tackles, a pass deflection, a forced fumble and an interception. This marked the first player of the week honor of his career. Fittingly enough, 49ers.com had Bethea wired for sound. This might be one of the best mic'd up segments I've ever seen.
Bethea made numerous big plays, but his biggest was his stop of Lesean McCoy at the 49ers 1-yard line. Here is a quick GIF, with Bethea coming from the top to stop McCoy short of the end zone.
This game marked Bethea's 100th consecutive start. It's an impressive number in the NFL, and all the more so given his ankle injury earlier in the week. Bethea suffered the injury in practice and sat out Friday's practice. He was listed as questionable, but made the start, and had his best game to date with the 49ers. That's certainly not to say his work the previous three weeks was chopped liver.
The 49ers signed Bethea to replace Donte Whitner, and through the first four weeks he has been a significant upgrade. His coverage work is not elite, but it has been better than that of Whitner. His work against the run on the other hand has been as good as anybody in the NFL. The 2-time Pro Bowler is on track for another appearance, although we obviously hope he has other plans the following week. Pro Football Focus grades him out as the No. 2 safety in the NFL, with Harrison Smith only modestly ahead of him. This signing could not have worked out any better.
Here is Bethea's transcript following Sunday's game:
Did your ankle bother you at all?
"No, not at all. I'll see it by tomorrow and Tuesday."
How important to you was it to get that 100th start in-a-row?
"It was important to me, man. That's something I hold close, dear to my heart. Just being reliable, being able to have my coaches and teammates to rely on me week-in and week-out. That's something I've really held onto my career so far."
Can you talk about the two plays - the forced fumble and then the interception?
"Forced fumble, just running to the ball, trying to make a tackle and I was able to get my hand in. It's something that we focus on throughout the week, forcing turnovers. And then the pick, was able to go up there and [DT] Justin Smith was able to get some pressure on the quarterback and I was able to go up and make a play."
Since Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly got there last year, they've put up some pretty big offensive numbers. Did you see weaknesses or things you could exploit or was there things on the film that gave you confidence going into this game?
"I think for us, we have a good defense over there. The main thing for us was just communication. When you watch the film, like you said, it's a great offense on that side of the ball. But a lot of the times where they get the defenses, a defense, maybe, somebody busts a coverage here and there or maybe the lineman are not in a gap or two. So, the big thing for us was, if we can line up and communicate well, we'll be fine with this offense."
Is communication something that's been coming? I mean, there's a lot of new parts in the secondary. Is it something that every game you're getting better at?
"Yeah. Every week you're going to get better out there practicing, communicating with one another in the film room, seeing different plays and just knowing how each other is going to react off one another. That's something that we'll continue to get better at throughout the year."
What made the goal-line stand work?
"Again, communication. Throughout the week, we kind of knew when they get into certain formations, what type of plays they will run. But the biggest thing is just communicating across the board and just making sure everybody was in the right place. And obviously, as you can see, we had everybody in the right place and we was able to get off the field."
On third-down you got into the quarterback's face, right?
Was that a blitz or was that --
"A call? Yeah. That was called and everybody performed their responsibilities well."
What does a game like this against a team like this do to a locker room?
"Of course, it's going to make us feel good coming off two tough losses. But at the end of the day, it's still one game. We're 2-2. We got 12 games left. Great teams are able to stack wins on top of each other, and that's what we need to do. Don't get me wrong, this win feels great. We break this two-game losing streak. But we got to continue to work and continue to get better."
You made a number of plays. What do you think was your best play?
"I'm not sure. I don't know."
One you're most proud of?
"I don't know. All of them."
How would you describe what Friday's practice looked like? Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he really tried to stress you guys with tempo that day?
"Yeah, that's exactly what it was. It was very loud. He was calling in calls real late so the players would have to kind of scramble to get the plays and communicate. Made it real easy for us today on Sunday. I think that was a great coaching move by coach Vic."
You and CB Perrish Cox collided on that possible interception earlier in the year, but it didn't happen today. And then you were also together on that fumble. What's it like working with him and what's that communication like?
"Oh, man, P, he's a great player. Fortunately with the injuries, he's been able to get on the field. And since he's been able to get on the field, he's been making plays. I heard him talking about the Chicago play, and how as a team we were getting on him. But I like that, though. Two teammates going, fighting for the ball and they're just trying to make plays. I appreciate his style of play, the way that he plays the game and hopefully we'll just continue to do that throughout the year."
Did you really think you could keep this team's offense out of the end zone?
"Of course. That's what you play defense for. That's why you play the game. We don't come out here on the field and say, ‘Okay, we're going to let them score a touchdown.' You come out here to keep the team out of the end zone and a doughnut on the scoreboard."
What's the key to tackling Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy?
"It's a team effort. Everybody has to run to the ball. Everybody has to play their leverage. When you're that guy at the point of contact, you got to be squared and you got to form tackle."
Two big stops: third-down and fourth-down. How surprised were you LeSean McCoy didn't get the ball down there?
"They have a lot of weapons on that side of the ball. That's up to Philly's offensive coordinator and all that. We just come out and play ball. Wherever we see the ball, we just go get it."
Philadelphia receiver Jeremy Maclin didn't get going until really late in the game. Did you guys have any particular strategies against him in coverage?
"No, not at all. Coach Vic called the calls and the defense, we did a great job playing our responsibilities."