Posted: 3:45 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, 2013
By David Fucillo
The San Francisco 49ers went into Thursday Night Football dealing with a variety of injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Patrick Willis and Nnamdi Asomugha were out with injuries, while Aldon Smith is on the NFI list as he goes through rehab. That left the 49ers looking down their depth chart for help.
The 49ers remaining starters did a strong job stepping up to fill the void, but the 49ers also got great work from their reserves. Among others, Corey Lemonier, Michael Wilhoite and Tramaine Brock all stepped up in a big way. We will have some All-22 film in the coming days, but I thought it was worth at least opening up discussion on what we saw Thursday evening.
In the preseason, Lemonier showed his pass rushing skills. Once the season hit, he got some special teams work, but not much else. Once Aldon Smith left for rehab, the 49ers moved Dan Skuta into the starting lineup, but we knew Lemonier was going to get some opportunities. And boy did he take advantage of that opportunity. Lemonier finished Thursday's game with three tackles, two hurries and a QB hit.
Lemonier didn't get any sacks, but he created quite a bit of pressure on Sam Bradford. And pressure was key last night. Bradford's numbers are drastically worse when teams get pressure on him. Give him time in the pocket, and Bradford has the skills to pick apart a defense. However, get him a little flustered, and the defense will win the day. Lemonier was a key part of the pressure Thursday evening.
Michael Wilhoite did not have a spectacular performance, but he was steady. In light of Patrick Willis' absence, steady is exactly what the 49ers needed. NaVorro Bowman stepped up his game, but Wilhoite provided a steady presence next to him. He finished the game with four tackles, and was just generally solid. That's all the 49ers needed last week as Patrick Willis recovers.
Tramaine Brock got off to a bit of a rough start, giving up some short stuff, and getting involved in the early almost-touchdown pass from Sam Bradford to Austin Pettis. Brock was involved in some miscommunication, but thankfully Bradford overthrew Pettis.
After that though, Brock settled in really nicely. He made what I thought was one of the best plays of the game when he tipped the pass on Donte Whitner's interception. Brock was covering Jared Cook, and jumped to break up the pass. It's all the more impressive considering Cook is 6'5 and Brock is 5'10. He got a good jump on it and broke it up about as perfectly as we could expect.
Brock seemed to have the early edge at nickel back in training camp, but then an injury (still not completely disclosed) slowed him and moved Nnamdi ahead of him. Nnamdi is recovering from his own injury (knee) now, so the door could be open for Brock to further secure that nickel role. The next ten days will be interesting to say the least.