The San Francisco 49ers had some breakdowns on defense this past Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, and one play that jumped out to folks was defensive lineman Solomon Thomas getting beaten badly in coverage by tight end Antonio Gates.
This is not the first time we’ve seen issues like this arrive. The running joke last year was when we’d see Earl Mitchell dropping in coverage, and wondering what the heck is going on. On Thursday, Robert Saleh offered some thoughts on it. It was a matter of being aggressive and trying to overload the pressure, and it was something they had success with earlier.
“We went into the game with a gameplan to try to be very, very aggressive with Philip [Rivers] — and when you live by the sword, you die by the sword. We had three zone — we call it a zone pressure — and there were three of them before the Solomon play happened. Ronnie Blair was in coverage on three different occasions — once on Gates, once on a wide receiver. And the first three were on third down where we got off the field on all three of them.
“And then the play with Solomon happened. I still feel like he should have been, if he gave himself a chance with technique, he would have been in better shape, but it’s never ideal. You need somebody to come home. It’s obvious you’re trying to run an overload pressure, and any time you pressure, any time you pressure, you’re leaving something open. You’re giving something to gain something, and they caught us. So that was the Solomon play.”
This is not the first time Saleh has addressed the issue of seeing defensive linemen dropping into coverage. He talked about it last November, and mentioned both the pressure reason, and just looking to plug the middle of the field in certain instances.
I don’t imagine this is the last we’ll see of zone pressure plays. Some will be a success, others will turn into abject disasters. We likely won’t as easily notice the good plays, but the bad plays will stick out like sore thumbs.