Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had plenty of opportunities to show off his big arm in Saturday’s joint practice with the 49ers, hitting his speedy receivers on several deep passes.
On Sunday, the 49ers’ defense struck back.
The unit had a strong outing, highlighted by rookie cornerback Dontae Johnson’s interception and touchdown return when Flacco tried to hit a receiver on a shallow sideline throw. Another young cornerback, Darryl Morris, came down with a deep, arcing pass in the corner of the end zone from Flacco.
Other passes were knocked away, including one by Aldon Smith, who drifted 15 yards into coverage to swat away a pass.
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One of the takeaways from joint sessions is that they give players a chance to compete against opponents with strengths that are different than their own team’s. The Ravens, for example, have much more speed at wideout than San Francisco, which prefers bigger-bodied pass catchers who are effective in traffic.
In that way, these sessions have been a welcome test for the defense.
“They have a few more speed receivers and it’s good to go against that speed,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “The running game is different. I’ve done over 20 of these joint practices in my days, and they’re always very good and very beneficial.”
“The Ravens and Joe Flacco, they thrive off of deep plays,” said Johnson, a fourth-round pick this year for the 49ers out of North Carolina State. “They’ve got speedsters like (receivers) Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones. Those guys can go. It’s just a different atmosphere, a different scheme. So it’s definitely good to go against that.”
More injuries – The 49ers suffered more injuries Sunday. The most serious appeared to be to guard Adam Snyder, who was caught in a pile on a passing play and who then limped off the field favoring his left knee.
Snyder had been playing left guard with the second-team offense. He was replaced by Al Netter.
Receiver Quinton Patton also walked off the field during practice. The nature of his issue was not known and he did not have a limp. Linebacker Shayne Skov sprained his ankle and did not return to practice.
Pit bull linebacker – The two teams had their first live tackling drill of the joint sessions, a goal-line scenario between second-team units.
San Francisco defensive ends Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial and outside linebacker Chase Thomas all excelled at times during the drill. The real standout for the 49ers’ defense, though, was rookie inside linebacker Chris Borland, who had at least two tackles, including one in which he stuffed the Ravens running back for no gain.
The aggressive Borland, a third-round pick, is in his element in goal-line situations.
“He’s a little pit bull. I love watching him play,” said fellow linebacker Patrick Willis. “He reminds me a lot of NaVorro (Bowman). They’re real low and compact, and it seems like they never break stride. They’re always moving and they always get to the ball.”
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers .