San Francisco 49ers

On 49ers: Tale of two games underscores S.F.’s defensive tailspin

The 49ers are producing trophies at a blistering pace this season. The problem is they’re being awarded to their opponents.

Three foes have won conference Player of the Week honors after playing San Francisco: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2, Cardinals cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (two interceptions, one for a touchdown) in Week 3, and Giants quarterback Eli Manning for his efforts Sunday.

The weekly awards are not a big deal – they barely register among players – but they are another reminder of how far the 49ers have fallen in one year, especially Manning’s award.

When the 49ers beat the Giants 16-10 last season, rookie linebacker Chris Borland came away with the Defensive Player of the Week award. Manning was sacked twice, had one touchdown pass and five interceptions (two by Borland), completed 48.9 percent of his passes for 280 yards and finished with a passer rating of 36.6. It was his worst performance of the season.

Contrast that with Manning’s performance in the Giants’ 30-27 victory Sunday: no sacks, three touchdowns and one interception, 75.9 percent completion rate, 441 yards and a passer rating of 110.2. It’s his best performance of the season.

Yes, the 49ers’ defensive talent was better a year ago. But the game against the Giants was the one in which linebacker Ahmad Brooks was benched for bad behavior and featured a rusty Aldon Smith, who was playing his first game since his suspension. Patrick Willis already was on injured reserve by the time the 49ers went to New York.

There will be a lot written and said this week about former coach Jim Harbaugh because his brother, John, coaches the Ravens, who will play the 49ers on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

But don’t forget the 49ers passed over former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio for the head-coaching job.

Fangio’s defenses never finished lower than fifth in the league in yards allowed or 10th in the league in points allowed (last year, after being third, second and second in preceding years).

This season, the 49ers are 31st and 27th, respectively, in those categories.

Tough call on Bowman – Linebacker NaVorro Bowman has not been his usual self in coverage this year, and the 49ers seem to be contemplating – coach Jim Tomsula spoke Wednesday about “monitoring” his snaps – taking him off the field from time to time.

That’s a big decision.

Quarterbacks have completed 21 of 22 passes when Bowman is covering their intended receiver, according to Pro Football Focus, and they have a collective 135.2 passer rating when targeting him.

Still, he’s the heart and soul of not just the defense but the team.

He hasn’t spoken to the media since the topic of his snap count was raised. Maybe he agrees that limiting his snaps will give him better bounce when he is on the field.

But there’s also a sense he would resist. After all, Bowman was in obvious pain at end of the Cardinals game, in which the 49ers trailed by 33 points, but he refused to leave the field.

The signal: I’m going to keep fighting, no matter what. It’s a message that needs to be sent to a young defense that mostly has struggled through five games.

Teams’ record deceptive – The common denominators between the Ravens and 49ers: Both teams have been ravaged by attrition since they played in the Super Bowl 32 months ago and are 1-4.

But they are different 1-4 teams. The Ravens have been competitive in each loss, and their average margin of defeat is 4.3 points. The 49ers’ average margin of defeat is 20.5 points.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at

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