Steve Wilks hasn’t been with the San Francisco 49ers long. However, that doesn’t mean the first-year defensive coordinator for the NFC champs comes with high expectations.
And Wilks was honest about that in tracing back to the conference title game performance vs. the Detroit Lions.
‘Embarrassing’ Was One Word Steve Wilks Used To Describe NFC Title Game
Reporters asked Wilks how he would categorize the way the 49ers played defense with the NFC title on the line.
While the Niners escaped with the 34-31 comeback win, Wilks didn’t mince words.
“I think you have to ask them individually,” Wilks began. “Collectively, as a team, I can tell you as a defense, it’s unacceptable, all right? We talked about that.”
Wilks went into what he “wished” in the NFC title game.
“I wish I could tell these guys on Play 4, on Play 27, this is what’s going to happen. You don’t know,” Wilks said. “So we’ve got to make sure that we play every down as if it’s going to be the difference in the ball game. And you could see on those particular plays it wasn’t to our standard.
Overall, Wilks concluded, “Those guys understand and know that, and quite honestly, it was embarrassing.”
How Bad Was the 49ers’ Defense Against the Lions?
Fans of the Niners will likely acknowledge that Brock Purdy and the offense bailed out SF.
Despite the period when the 49ers kept the Lions scoreless for approximately 28 minutes of play, the 49ers still witnessed the following from Detroit:
- The Lions averaged 6.3 yards per carry on the ground despite not producing a 100-yard running back.
- Detroit scored three times through handoffs — the most the 49ers’ defense allowed this season, including playoffs.
- Two Lions receivers, Sam LaPorta and Amon-Ra St. Brown, caught a combined 16 catches for 184 yards vs. the Niners’ secondary.
- Detroit earned more total yards (442), first downs (28), and had more rushing and passing yards over the 49ers.
How did the 49ers counter? With Purdy in a rhythm and the ground attack in sync, they began to eat up more time. San Francisco ended up with the football for 32:12 compared to the Lions’ 27:48.
How Can the 49ers Counter Patrick Mahomes and Co. Next?
Wilks now has to think long and hard about how to counter Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and a potent Kansas City Chiefs offense in Super Bowl 58.
But the 49ers have defenders who have seen Mahomes and Co. on this stage before. The remaining defenders from that Super Bowl 54 loss are Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Dre Greenlaw, and Fred Warner.
Only this time, the quartet won’t have Robert Saleh putting them in a position to attack Mahomes, Kelce, and the Chiefs. Now, Wilks has to be tasked with implementing a far different game plan than the one from four years ago.
“It’s different things that we have to do,” Wilks said of defending the Chiefs. “No. 1, [Mahomes is] doing a tremendous job, really extended plays. We talked all week. It’s two plays within one down. When the ball snaps and then once he starts to scramble. So he’s phenomenal.
Wilks added that Mahomes is “The best I’ve ever seen for just buying time, winning with his feet, and getting the ball where it needs to go down the field.”
Meanwhile, another prominent defensive figure was just as honest as Wilks: General Manager John Lynch, who won Super Bowl 37 as a hard-hitting safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He believes, though, that the 49ers defense will have a different attitude on Feb. 11.
“Effort is non-negotiable…Those things have been addressed, and I really would be shocked if we saw that again,” Lynch said to reporters.
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