Antoine Bethea intercepted a pass, forced a fumble and even deciphered the Eagles’ audibles in Sunday’s San Francisco 26-21 win.
For that, the 49ers safety was named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, the first time the nine-year veteran has won the award.
Bethea was questionable to play in the game because of an ankle injury that occurred late during the week of practice. He ended up making his 100th consecutive start, which included stripping the ball from Philadelphia tight end Zach Ertz and intercepting a deep pass from Nick Foles.
His biggest play may have been a tackle of LeSean McCoy late in the game. Bethea swooped in to cut down the Philadelphia running back at San Francisco’s 2-yard line. If the Eagles had scored, they would have taken a late-game lead.
On third and goal, Bethea’s blitz forced Foles to rush his throw to the end zone. That pass, as well as the one on fourth down, was incomplete.
Bethea wore a microphone during the game and at one point cameras caught him explaining to defensive-line coach Jim Tomsula that when Foles waves his hand above his helmet it means the Eagles are changing the play to a run. Later in the game, Bethea spots Foles making that motion, barks out the play to his teammates, who then stuff McCoy for a 4-yard loss.
After the game, Bethea said communication was the key to the win.
“Throughout the week, we kind of knew when they get into certain formations, what type of plays they will run,” he said. “But the biggest thing is just communicating across the board and just making sure everybody was in the right place. And obviously, as you can see, we had everybody in the right place and we were able to get off the field.”
See no turmoil – The 49ers continued to downplay national reports about dissension inside the locker room between the players and coach Jim Harbaugh. NFL Network’s Deion Sanders, for instance, said players on the team no longer want Harbaugh to be their coach.
“I’d like to know who the source is,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “When you get a source from that, then we can talk about that. Until then, that’s the media.”
Said tight end Vernon Davis: “I heard rumors going on around here, but I don’t see it. He’s a great guy with tons of energy. I don’t think there’s a better guy than him that’s made for this job.”
Injuries – Davis said he is moving around better than he was after Sunday’s game, but his back spasms have not gone away entirely. He missed Wednesday’s practice and declared himself “day to day.”
Davis left Sunday’s game after a short reception. He said he experienced “sharp pain” in his back, but doctors have told him the injury is not severe.
Meanwhile, right tackle Anthony Davis also missed practice, but the knee and ankle injuries he suffered Sunday do not appear to be long term. He was observed walking quickly through the locker room and into the training room. He did not have a limp and his knee was not wrapped.
Justin Smith (veterans’ day off) missed Wednesday’s session as he always does while Tramaine Brock (toe) worked on a side field with the team’s strength coach. It appears as if Perrish Cox will start his fourth consecutive game at cornerback.
Rookie center Marcus Martin (knee) went through a limited practice, his first since suffering his injury in the preseason.