There are times when the box score can lie or the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story. The 49ers defense gave up an abnormal number of yards on Monday night, and struggled to get off the field on third downs.
Nick Bosa, outside of the sack column, was his usual productive self. But everybody from Fred Warner to Steve Wilks had performances and plays that they’d like to have back.
Wilks took to the podium on Thursday, and here was his opening statement:
“I got to be honest with you, by the time I talk to you guys, win or lose, mentally I’m on to the next game. I know there’s a lot of questions about the call right before the half. So I definitely want to address that before I move on to Cincinnati.
I take full responsibility for that call. I have to do a better job in putting the guys in a better position. We have good players, I know that and can’t really press the issue. And with that, moving forward it’s my responsibility to do that. So I wish I could take it back. But again, I got to do better. So this week moving forward, I would say we have definitely a challenge ahead of us.
[Cincinnati Bengals QB] Joe Burrow, in my opinion, is one of the best quarterbacks in this league. He has a dynamic trio at the receiver position, [Cincinnati Bengals WR Tyler] Boyd, [Cincinnati Bengals WR Tee] Higgins, and what I think one of the best in the league [Cincinnati Bengals WR Ja’Marr] Chase. [Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe] Mixon is still running the ball at a high level.
I think they do a great job upfront in the offensive line as far as the run game, as well as trying to give him time in the pocket for his protection. So with that, I take your questions.”
Kudos to Wilks for not running from the elephant in the room and addressing the question head-on.
Let’s see how Wilks adjusts moving forward. Kyle Shanahan said, “I don’t have a problem with a zero blitz, I do when there’s 16 seconds left.”
The 49ers have blitzed at the seventh-lowest rate in the NFL. It’s not as if Wilks is sending the house on every other play. But it’s the timing and the predictability of his blitzes that are hurting the defense. It also doesn’t help that the defensive line isn’t winning their 1-on-1 battles when there is a blitz.
Wilks explained why he feels the 49ers pass rush is this close to a breakthrough:
“It’s a combination of both. It starts with me from a standpoint of calls, got to look at my calls. We got to look at what we do from a coverage standpoint and giving those guys opportunities because when I evaluate the tape and I watch things, we’re this close.
You look at certain situations why the quarterback is getting rid of the ball, we got to be better than our zone drops, getting in that particular window that’s going to make him hold the ball. Then [DL Nick] Bosa is right there to get the sack, or he’s going to check it down, as we always talk about forcing the ball to the kill zone. So there’s a combination of a lot of things and we all got our hand in it, and we got to get better.”
Wilks added that he’s not panicking, knowing that the 49ers have the personnel and the talent to succeed.