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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Why the 49ers aren’t worried about CB Charvarius Ward against top receivers

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jan 16, 2023 at 6:15 PM--

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward faced a tough challenge in his first playoff game with the team, going up against Seattle Seahawks wide receivers D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, which came with ups and downs.

The Seahawks didn't shy away from targeting Ward, who had locked up Metcalf in the Week 15 bout between the two franchises, holding the wideout to just two catches and 15 yards in coverage.

However, Seattle saw more success in that matchup on Saturday, as D.K. Metcalf finished with 10 receptions, 136 yards, and two touchdowns, including a 74-yard touchdown when he beat Ward on a go-route.

The battle between the two was highly anticipated heading into the matchup after Ward pointed out Metcalf's tendency to trash talk while simultaneously displaying confidence in his ability.

"Trash talking, he does a lot of that," Ward said Thursday. "I'm not really much of a talker. I try to save my breath for the play. But if he wants to talk, he can talk. I'm just going to play. I'll let my play do the talk."

"Some guys do [like to talk trash], but most guys know I don't go for that B.S.," Ward said. "I just lock them up, and then they stop talking."

While Ward bounced back in the second half in coverage, his first-half performance left much to be desired, as Seattle held a 17-16 lead at the half.

Per Pro Football Focus, Ward gave up six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown on eight targets, posting a 36.3 grade in coverage, which was the worst of his 2022 season.

Prior to Saturday's game, San Francisco's top cornerback had only given up more than 53 yards in one other game this season: Week 7 versus the Kansas City Chiefs.

Does Ward's performance cause concerns for the 49ers and head coach Kyle Shanahan?

Speaking to reporters following San Francisco's 41-23 win over the Seahawks, Shanahan believes that Ward's response in the second half will fuel him going forward while stressing how tough his assignment was in containing Metcalf.

On Monday, Shanahan was asked how Ward, known as "Mooney" to coaches and teammates, responded after the first half, and how the performance might fuel him this week.

"I think it'll fuel him a lot. He played as good as he could verse [Seattle Seahawks WR] DK [Metcalf] in that first game and it's hard to do that again," Shanahan responded. "DK is as good of a receiver as there is in this league."

Instead of worrying, Shanahan was actually excited that Ward didn't shy away from the challenge after getting beaten for the long touchdown, adding that it was a great route from Metcalf.

"[D.K. Metcalf] is a problem to stop and I like that Mooney didn't stop, he didn't shy away from him once he got beat on that deep ball," Shanahan said. "He was playing the back shoulder pretty well and DK did a hell of a job slowing down and looking back and he got him. Mooney thought it was going to be a back shoulder and he took his eyes off it to stop that and then DK slipped down the sidelines on the go-route."

It's also important to note that coverage mishaps are bound to occur. But, Shanahan acknowledged that Ward hasn't been prone to those issues, which is why the level of worry is minimal heading into San Francisco's divisional-round matchup.

"But, that's going to happen with a good player like that," Shanahan said. "You hope it doesn't happen too often and Mooney's done a hell of a job with that all year and I know he will come back and continue to do that this week."

Ward has been one of the NFL's best corners in man coverage this season, which has given defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans more room to be creative in his play calling due to the trust he has in his top defensive back to remain stout in the backend against tough assignments.

Regardless of who the 49ers play in the divisional round, be it the Dallas Cowboys or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ward will face another tough assignment, setting up a potential bounce-back opportunity for the 26-year-old cornerback.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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