David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan: ‘Doing things better,’ not tweaks, will lead to an improved 49ers defense

Rohan Chakravarthi
Sep 13, 2021 at 2:00 PM--

The 49ers had their first game of the season Sunday against the Lions, and it was DeMeco Ryans' first game as the defensive coordinator for the 49ers.

Ryans, who was promoted after former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh became the head coach of the New York Jets, made the impression this offseason that he wanted the team to be ultra-aggressive, beginning with the defensive line.

And that was the case Sunday, as four different 49ers (DT Kentavious Street, DE Nick Bosa, DE Arik Armstead, and DE Dee Ford) racked up at least five pressures, with Armstead leading the way at 9 total for the game.

However, with the positives came some work to improve on, as the 49ers allowed 116 rushing yards, with most of the damage coming along the interior.

When head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked after the game about what he saw from DeMeco Ryans and what needed to be tweaked with the defense, Shanahan pointed out the rushing aspect and players not being in the proper spots, allowing the backs to enter the second and third levels of the defense.

"I think DeMeco will tell you the same thing," Shanahan said. "It's not as much about tweaking things. It's about doing things better. There's a number of things that we've done here, going into our fifth year in a row, early in that game, especially those three runs up the middle. Just a couple of guys not being in the right gap. And it wasn't one culprit. It was three different guys from three different plays."

On Detroit's first touchdown drive of the game, running back Jamaal Williams had a 20-yard rush up the middle, which pushed the Lions forward en route to a touchdown.

Then, on the next drive, De'Andre Swift had consequent rushes of 16 and 15 yards, setting Detroit up for a field goal, keeping them within reach at 14-10.

"I think they had like 110 yards rushing, and I think they got 60-something yards on three of the same play, which were all very similar," Shanahan said. "That's more just you've got to tie 11 guys together to stop the run, and when one guy gets out, it's going to get [to] Jimmie Ward real quick, if that's the middle-third player. You're just hoping he can save a touchdown."

Jimmie Ward, who played well Sunday, got beat on a 1-on-1 tackling opportunity during De'Andre Swift's 43-yard touchdown, which came from a screen pass.

"Three of those really hurt," Shanahan added. "Just a couple of mistakes there at the end of the game that allowed them to get some quick points and stuff. But stuff that we've got to get better at in terms of not making mistakes. That's why I'm real excited to get to practice on Wednesday [to fix] that stuff."

With the 49ers heading to Philadelphia next weekend to face the Eagles, look for them to shore up that interior run defense against young running back Miles Sanders, especially if defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw is healthy to play.
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