49ers' pass defense gets passing grade

Posted Nov. 02, 2012 @ 1:24 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

Acknowledging a veritable “Murderer’s Row” of quarterbacks on the 2012 schedule, featuring the likes of Aaron Rodgers (Week One), Matthew Stafford (Week Two), Eli Manning (Week Six), Drew Brees (Week 12) and Tom Brady (Week 15), before the season started our 49ers sources voiced serious concerns about the pass defense’s ability to persevere against such worthy opponents under center.

However, with the Niners’ pass defense ranked a surprising second in yards allowed through the team’s first eight games and performing on a par with the team’s vaunted run defense, those concerns have been replaced by well-deserved adulation.

“They really weren’t supposed to be very good,” one team source said. “But they’ve stuck pretty much with the same effective formula since having trouble with (QB Christian) Ponder in the loss to Minnesota: rush wide, stay in the lanes, keep the quarterback in the pocket and just cover real well.”

The Niners’ defense has covered especially well in the middle of the field.

“That’s due to the linebackers and the safeties playing so well,” the source said. “(FS Dashon) Goldson has probably been the most dynamic defender. He just covers so much ground and has raised his game beyond the second tier of safeties, which is where most observers had him ranked.”

Goldson’s co-conspirators in the San Francisco secondary also have done their part.

“(LCB) Carlos Rogers doesn’t have as many picks as last year, but he’s been as good as last year in the slot,” the source said. "(RCB) Tarell Brown has been really solid. (SS Donte) Whitner sets everybody up and is extremely smart. And all four of them are great in run support and are sure tacklers.

“And don’t forget (No. 3 CB) Chris Culliver. He is really developing and had a great game (in Week Eight) against Arizona.”