For the second straight week, cornerback Dontae Johnson was effectively a starter opposite Tramaine Brock. In Week 15, Kenneth Acker got the start, but finished the game with nine snaps to Johnson's 53. This past week, Johnson again got the bulk of the work. Johnson finished with 70 of 71 snaps, while Kenneth Acker finished with 11 snaps. Jimmie Ward had 55 snaps as the nickel back, while Marcus Cromartie had three snaps as the final cornerback.
It was a busy day for the 49ers pass defense. Matthew Stafford attempted 37 passes, and has a pair of big time receivers in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. We'll have a film breakdown at some point of Johnson's performance, but in the meantime, I asked Jeff Deeney from Pro Football Focus about the coverage numbers.
- Dontae Johnson: 4-5, 63 yds, 1 TD, 1 pbu - 3-4, 34 yds vs. Johnson, 1-1, 29 yds, 1 TD vs. Jones
- Tramaine Brock: 2-3, 7 yds, 1 TD - 1-2, 1 yd, 1 TD vs. Johnson, 1-1, 6 yds vs. Moore
- Kenneth Acker: 2-2, 30 yds - 1-1, 29 yds vs. Johnson, 1-1, 1 yd vs. Abdullah
- Jimmie Ward: 1-1, 11 yds (Tate)
- Marcus Cromartie: 0-1 (Johnson)
The film will provide greater detail, but the numbers are worth an early look. Calvin Johnson was the most targeted receiver, two targets ahead of Theo Riddick. I recall a great pass break-up in the end zone of a pass to Calvin Johnson. I believe the throw was just a hair behind Megatron, but it was still great work by Johnson to bat the pass away.
I want to go back and look at first half numbers vs. second half numbers for Johnson vs. Johnson. The 49ers defense was far from perfect in the first half (beyond even just the neutral zone infractions), but it felt a little better than the second half. Part of that was likely due to the significant lack of adjustments the 49ers made as a whole.
The 49ers have one more game this season, hosting the St. Louis Rams in Week 17. The Rams will not use nearly as many 3+ WR sets as we saw with the Lions. Todd Gurley will get plenty of work on the ground, and Jimmie Ward will probably keep plenty busy with Tavon Austin. Kenny Britt had a decent game, and Brian Quick was technically listed as a starter. It will be interesting to see how the 49ers defensive gameplan adjusts (don't laugh) to more 1- and 2-WR sets from the Rams, and whether or not Johnson is again an active part of the defense.