49ers secondary gets 4 of 5 picks in win vs. Bears
AP Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – Michael Lewis kept the ball from his game-saving interception in the end zone as a gift for his nearly 2-week-old baby girl, Sydney. Considering the San Francisco safety has already endured three concussions this season, the play was something to celebrate.
So was the fact the 49ers finally were back in the win column. They snapped a four-game losing streak thanks to a stellar secondary that doubled its interception total in the process, picking off four passes by Chicago’s Jay Cutler in a 10-6 win over the Bears on Thursday night.
The Niners (4-5) finished with five total picks in their first victory since a 35-0 rout of the Rams on Oct. 4, giving them 11 for the season and eight of those by defensive backs.
Veteran nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin had the other Thursday at the goal line for his first career interception. Franklin also saved the ball and plans to send it to his mother, Chantini Carter, in Johnson City, Tenn. It was still safe in his locker Friday.
Franklin is the only nose tackle in the NFL with an interception this season, and it was the first by a 49ers defensive lineman since September 2008. Franklin, a 317-pounder in his seventh NFL season out of Tennessee, hadn’t made an interception since high school.
“I knew they weren’t running,” Franklin said of his play in the second quarter that spoiled a Chicago drive. “They had run it back-to-back. I was just anticipating. I knew he was going to pass.”
San Francisco had five or more interceptions for the first time since getting six on Sept. 14, 1997, against New Orleans.
“I thought our defense, it did what we focused on,” coach Mike Singletary said Friday. “They did what we talked about all week, and that was creating turnovers. And we have to continue to do that, getting our offense the ball.”
It was another subpar offensive performance by quarterback Alex Smith and Co.
Lewis, Tarell Brown and Mark Roman each registered their first interceptions of the year, while Dashon Goldson had his second. The 49ers’ 11 interceptions are only one shy of their 2008 total.
Brown ran his interception back 51 yards, providing glimpses of the 2,000-yard rusher he once was in high school.
“It feels good. We know that we can get our hands on the ball,” Brown said. “I think we can keep that up. Those guys up front put on so much pressure.”
The Bears had little choice but to pass because of an ineffective ground game, so it was up to San Francisco’s secondary to produce big plays. Chicago was held to 43 yards rushing.
Singletary was pleased with the defense’s effectiveness creating turnovers, but he wants the offense to capitalize. Smith understands.
“Five turnovers and great field position, you’d like to walk away with more than 10 points, no question,” Smith said. “I’m happy for the defense to do that, close it out the way they did. They deserved it.”
Singletary is giving his team Saturday and Sunday off before coming back to work for meetings Monday to start preparation for a game Nov. 22 at Green Bay.
Everybody on San Francisco’s side enjoyed seeing Lewis come up with the ball as time expired at Candlestick Park. This unit has taken several blows this season, including Lewis’ two concussions during an 11-day span of training camp and another during a 45-10 loss to Atlanta on Oct. 11.
Cornerback Walt Harris was placed on injured reserve before the season as the former Pro Bowler recovers from knee surgery and the Niners lost cornerback Nate Clements for six to eight weeks with a broken right shoulder blade sustained in San Francisco’s 18-14 loss at Indianapolis on Nov. 1.
“It’s just a great feeling to have the kind of game we had in the secondary and finish with a play like that,” Roman said. “It speaks volumes to the guys in the secondary. We are a resilient group of guys.”
Roman’s interception was his first in nearly three years since Dec. 14, 2006, at Seattle. The pick and 27-yard return helped set up Joe Nedney’s 21-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
The 29-year-old Lewis is happy to be back on the field at all.
He led with his helmet on the hit against the Falcons and was face down on the field for several minutes while being examined. He was dazed and done for the day, but quickly bounced back – something the 49ers took into account when evaluating whether to let him play again.
Lewis’ first concussion occurred Aug. 18 during a joint practice with Oakland at the Raiders’ wine country training site in Napa when he got hit by a fullback. He suffered another in an exhibition game at Dallas on Aug. 29, when he fell and took a knee to the helmet.
Lewis chuckled as he thought about how he’d explained to his three older children that the ball from Thursday was for the new baby, born Nov. 2. That way they wouldn’t fight over it.
“They understood,” he said, smiling.