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First-Team Defense Remains a Force

Posted Aug 25, 2013

San Francisco’s starting defense only played in the first quarter of the team’s second preseason win, but they did get quality contributions from many of the first-team defenders.


Eric Reid wasn’t alone.

The entire starting defense made a good impression on 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

Reid made his first preseason start at free safety Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings and was tested immediately on a play-action fake 40 yard down the field. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder launched a deep ball to new target Greg Jennings, but the ball was thrown too far over the veteran wide receiver’s head.

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It didn’t matter, Reid wasn’t fooled.

“He was deep when he was supposed to be deep, make tackles, showed up in special teams, did a fine job,” Harbaugh said of his first-round draft pick. “Another guy who continues to get better.”

Many of the 49ers defensive players showed improvements in the team’s 34-14 win over the Vikings.

Harbaugh raved about his starting unit, a group that only allowed one touchdown after a Colt McCoy interception led to a short field for Ponder and Minnesota’s offense.

San Francisco’s starting defense only played in the first quarter of the team’s second preseason win, but they did get quality contributions from many of the first-team defenders.

In fact, the 49ers starting outside linebackers made the game first big play of the night. Ahmad Brooks forced a fumble on Ponder, which was quickly recovered by Aldon Smith at Minnesota’s 11-yard line. As a result, the 49ers connected on a 30-yard field goal to take an early lead, one they would never give up the rest of the way.

Justin Smith also proved to be his old reliable self on San Francisco’s third defensive series. On a 3rd-and-1, Smith knifed through the line of scrimmage to body-slam Toby Gerhart for an empathic tackle-for-loss four yards deep in Minnesota’s backfield.

“That was jumping out, the way Justin and Ray (McDonald) and Ahmad and NaVorro (Bowman) were playing, they were leaders,” Harbaugh said. “That group of guys… it was something good, something special, I liked it.”

Minnesota picked up 17 first downs and 214 total yards of offense. Smith’s fumble recovery wasn’t the only turnover forced by the 49ers defense either.

Following a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, San Francisco forced a second turnover of the night. A second-down pass from Ponder was tipped by Nnamdi Asomugha and intercepted by C.J. Spillman.

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Asomugha continued to make his case to be San Francisco’s No. 3 cornerback. The 11-year veteran continues to be in competition with fourth-year pro Tramaine Brock.

“It’s a very competitive role between T-Brock and Nnamdi for that position,” Harbaugh said. “It’s good for our ball club that both of those guys have stepped up and they’re both ascending players, both improving players. That’s good for us.”

Throughout the roster Harbaugh pointed out players who continue to impress in the preseason. In the mind of the 49ers coach, the consistent defensive effort bodes well for his team entering the upcoming season.

“Our defense in general has done a fine job all preseason,” Harbaugh said.