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Niners Need to Improve Tackling, Third-Down Defense

In last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, the 49ers defense gave up 35 points in the first half. It was an atrocious performance by any measure, as San Francisco eventually fell 38-27.

The fact the 1-2 49ers improved in the second half and rallied to make it a game was encouraging, but as the Niners get ready to play the Chargers this Sunday at Carson’s Home Depot Center, the defense will have to be much better. The Chargers offense is explosive, and the same mistakes can’t be made.

As defensive coordinator Robert Saleh noted this week, the 49ers have to get better in two key areas.

First, tackling. Niners defenders swung and missed often in the first half against the Chiefs, allowing big gains on plays that could have been stopped short.

The second is third-down defense. Time and again, the Chiefs converted third-and-long to keep alive drives that resulted in touchdowns. Just a couple of stops could have changed the outcome.

“You know, 35 points in a half is unacceptable,” Saleh told reporters this week. “It’s going to sound trivial and it’s going to sound very elementary, but it comes down to, obviously, tackling, which needs to get better. … It’s not very good.”

Saleh pointed to the Chiefs being able to convert twice on third-and-15 and another time on third-and-10, as well as a third-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Each of those drives resulted in a touchdown.

“When you give an offense like the Chiefs opportunities, and that’s where tackling on third down, letting them have opportunities on extra plays, they’re going to do damage,” he said.

Now, the 49ers go into Sunday’s game against the 1-2 Chargers with a backup quarterback in C.J. Beathard. So, without Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers offense may not be able to be as effective. Meanwhile the Philip Rivers-led Chargers offense ranks as one of the best in the NFL (No. 5 at 415.3 yards per game). If Saleh’s defense can’t tackle or stop the Chargers on third down, Sunday’s game could be long and painful for the 49ers.

NFL oddsmakers have made the 49ers big underdogs, by as much as 10½ points. Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Source: NBC Bay Area

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