Kyle Shanahan gives blunt response to Wilks first-half blitz blunder

Oct 26, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 11:50 am

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers looks on while the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Ba...

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The 49ers had a lot of problems in Week 7’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings, especially on defense. But Kyle Shanahan had one play in particular on his mind, giving his two cents on the matter of Steve Wilks’ playcalling.

The San Francisco 49ers coach was honest when asked about how the first half ended in Week 7, unhappy with the defensive play call. Wilks called an all-out blitz with 16 seconds remaining on the clock. That left the visitor’s secondary exposed, with veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins seeing that in an instant.

The result: A 60-yard touchdown that swung the momentum back to Minnesota.

Visibly unhappy after the game, Shanahan revealed some of his frustrations centered around that play.

“That’s stuff we’ll discuss throughout this week,” Kyle Shanahan said postgame about the blitz call. “Obviously, I did not like the result.”

After declining the next-day conference call with the media, Shanahan and the coaching staff met Tuesday with the players away from the facility.

The result: We don’t know entirely yet, only that the defense won’t be doing end-of-the-half blitzes anytime soon.

“Yeah, he knows he messed up on that call. I have no problem with zero blitzes, especially when people need a lot of yards. If you need to get 20 yards to kick a field goal, I have no problem with a zero blitz. But I do when there’s 16 seconds left,” Shanahan exclaimed Wednesday. “That’s where he lost track. There was no necessary need for that just because of the time. I have no problem with that play call, but when it’s that time you can’t do that. That’s not an option.”

In his defense, Steve Wilks has discussed the adaptation to the 49ers’ ways since he got to Santa Clara. A former head coach known for dialing up the pressure, now having to adjust to the known success of defensive line coach Kris Kocurek and San Francisco.

And while there have been challenges along the way, total cohesion shouldn’t be expected off the bat. But in turn, the players should step up, something that hasn’t happened in the last two weeks.

That includes defensive end Nick Bosa.

The reigning defensive player of the year has struggled to get the QB in the past few weeks, only totaling 3.5 sacks through seven games. This time last season, he had seven.

But in Shanahan’s mind, Bosa looks the same. The only thing different is that his pressures haven’t translated to big plays just yet.

“I don’t see anything different. I know the results haven’t been there. He’s got a couple of opportunities missed, he’s got a couple opportunities that should have been an easy sack,” Kyle Shanahan explained. “So, I just feel like the way it’s panned out between rush and coverage and just all 11 together they haven’t been tied together to me when they have done it.

“When Bosa beats someone, there’s got to be nowhere to go with the ball and they’ve been able to do that whether it’s a miss or whatever it is. When we’ve had people covered, I don’t feel like we’ve always had that rush. So I think it’s there throughout a game, but just not at the right times.”

And the coach is correct in his assessment of the entire defensive line: They haven’t played as a group the last two weeks.

In fact, the 49ers ranked first and second last two seasons in run defense. This season: 25th, according to David Lombardi of The Athletic.

Despite that, San Francisco still feels confident in their group up front, especially because of the unit’s past success. But don’t be surprised if the 49ers do a little snooping around the trade market up until Oct. 31st, always inclined to add another piece at the right price.

After all, the goal is to be the best defense, from front to back, if you’re Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers.

“We’re always interested anywhere that we think will help our team without hurting it, especially for the future,” he said. “So, that’s something we’re always looking into. But, I think it’s helped adding [LB/DL] Randy [Gregory]. I think he’s done some good things. I think [DL Clelin Ferrell] Cle made a couple good plays in the game, but we want to do better all around. It’s not like we’re just targeting that position or anything.”

Upcoming San Francisco 49ers Schedule

  • Sunday, October 29th vs. Cincinnati Bengals – 1:25 PM PST
  • Sunday, November 12th @ Jacksonville Jaguars – 10:00 AM PST
  • Sunday, November 19th vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- 1:05 PM PST
  • Thursday, November 23rd @ Seattle Seahawks – 5:20 PM PST
  • Sunday, December 3rd @ Philadelphia Eagles – 1:25 PM PST

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