A look over the 49ers">San Francisco 49ers defensive stats suggests a team in the middle.
The 49ers on defense ranked 16th in points (21.6 per game), 13th in yards allowed (327) and were middling in interceptions and fumbles, finishing 15th in turnover differential (minus-one). The standout stat was the three defensive touchdowns, but that didn’t come close to ranking atop the NFL.
Avid Niners fans know that those numbers do very little to represent the frustration they suffered as they watched winnable games evaporate in the final moments. There was Atlanta’s Matt Ryan driving the Falcons in the waning moments. There was Drew Brees moving the Saints across the Candlestick turf. Both games ended in gut-wrenching defeats, and those two games alone would have changed the 49ers fortunes considerably.
Of course, looking back is easy. Looking forward is the hard part. New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio must construct a defense that performs to its abilities. More over, it must perform well at crucial moments to help the team succeed.
There’s no doubt that the Niners have worry spots in their defense. There’s no doubt that there’s also some high-grade NFL talent on the squad—from Patrick Willis and Justin Smith to Isaac Sopoaga and Dashon Goldson.
It’s up to the coaching staff to implement a scheme that enhances the chances for success, and then get the players to believe in it. It’s also up to the players to make the plays when they are there for the taking.
In that light, here are four defensive priorities for the 49ers in 2011.