49ers’ defense ready for Eagles
BOARDMAN, Ohio (AP) – San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman wouldn’t mind being the worst nightmare imagined by the Philadelphia Eagles’ self-proclaimed “Dream Team.”
“They have the title of Dream Team,” Bowman said Thursday. “We feel we have a ‘Dream Team’ over here (defensively), also. Saying ‘Dream Team,’ you’re giving something that has to be earned. That title came out early. We have a chance to show them what talent we have on our side of the ball.”
San Francisco ranks fourth overall in defense and third against the run. The Niners have not allowed an opposing runner to gain more than 100 yards in 25 straight games.
Philadelphia averages 182 yards on the ground, second in the NFL.
Much of the burden of cutting that production when the Eagles host the 49ers Sunday will rest on Bowman and four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis – who will be needed against the Eagles’ quick-strike passing game, too.
The 49ers’ secondary is banged up. Cornerback Tramaine Brock has a cast on his left hand and strong safety Donte Whitner is questionable with a hip injury.
That concerns defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, already wary of the Eagles’ ability to stretch a defense to its limit.
“He’s (Whitner) highly questionable right now,” Fangio said. “He started to do some things in practice, but did not finish. I don’t know his status. Brock can play but will have limitations. Playing corner in this league is hard enough full speed, to put a cast on your hand makes it even a little more hard. He’ll be available.”
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick naturally draws attention, but Fangio said the Eagles are loaded elsewhere.
“The thing that jumps off at you is the speed of their skilled people,” Fangio said. “Starting with their wide receivers, (Jeremy) Maclin and (DeSean) Jackson are about as fast a tandem as you’ll ever play against.
“Then obviously the speed and elusiveness of Vick, his strong arm, and his ability to get it to these guys deep down the field. This is a big-play team.”
Head coach Jim Harbaugh had a tongue-in-cheek suggestion for Eagles coach Andy Reid regarding the battered Vick:
“With the (concussion) he had two weeks ago, with the hand injury this week, it’d probably be the prudent thing to rest him for a week. I’d like that a lot. I think that would be prudent for them to do. But we can’t count on it. So we’re going to have to prepare for him.”
Willis said whoever is across the line presents a problem.
“We all know (Vick) is a playmaker and a guy that can make a difference in a game,” Willis said. “Whoever is taking the snap will be the guy we have to stop.”
Fangio is most concerned with stopping running back LeSean McCoy. He poses a threat on handoffs as well as coming out of the backfield and getting involved in the passing game.
“I think he makes it all go for this team,” Fangio said. “He’s very quick, very elusive. He’s got an unusual running style. He’s kind of like Barry Sanders in a way that a run can be started outside left that can end up outside right or vice versa.”
Bowman, who has 35 tackles in three games, including a team-high 13 in last week’s 13-8 win at Cincinnati, said it is his job to stop McCoy.
“That’s the matchup in football – linebacker on running back,” Bowman said. “It’s a tough challenge and one that I take seriously. The goal is to not let him get 100 (yards) against us. We’ve got to contain him.”
Bowman said the best way to do that may be to put pressure on Vick when the quarterback drops back to pass. If the Niners do that, McCoy will be needed to block instead of run.
“Then again, Vick is like a second running back,” Bowman said. “We’ve got to guard against him pulling it down and taking off.”
Notes: Noise was piped into Stambaugh Stadium to replicate NFL game conditions as the 49ers continued their week of work at Youngstown State. … Fangio said CB Shawntae Spencer and S Madieu Williams could see more time, noting both did well as injury replacements in Cincinnati.