Fangio: Lackluster D nothing to worry about

The 49ers' rugged defense has been playing below its usual high standards through three preseason games, but Vic Fangio says it's nothing to get worked up about. San Francisco's defensive coordinator has not been happy with his unit's summer performance, but he's eager to see what happens when the real games begin. Here's an overview of and full transcript from Fangio's Monday press conference.

The Niners ranked fourth in the NFL in total defense last season, including second in scoring defense and first against the run, and there's no question defense is the team's strength.

So it comes as somewhat of a surprise that opposing offenses have moved the ball and scored with relative ease against the 49ers during the preseason.

That includes Sunday's 29-24 victory over Denver, in which the Broncos scored on their first three possessions to take a quick 17-0 lead. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning played less than a quarter but completed 10 of 12 passes for 122 yards and led scoring drives of 23, 83 and 45 yards without a punt or turnover against the 49ers' No. 1 defense.

Fangio says it's not time to panic, though.

"We just didn't play well enough on certain plays," he said Monday. "I think it was a great learning experience for us, in that some of the plays where we broke down, we could have definitely played better. And then in some instances, they just beat us one-on-one. We weren't able to win the one-on-one battles."

It is just the preseason, and the 49ers don't do any specific game-planning for opposing offenses at this stage.

Plus, the 49ers played Sunday's game without Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Chris Culliver – three key players in the team's defensive packages.

Fangio agreed the team might be a little overconfident, perhaps concerned more about the regular season than the preseason.

"I think there is some of that," he said. "The guys are ready to go, that's for sure and get on to playing in the regular season. This is still great time to learn, perfect your craft, excel on your technique and stuff and we have to be able to do that. And we weren't perfect on that the other night by any means."

Fangio was reminded that the Houston Texans and quarterback Matt Schaub had similar success against the 49ers defense in the third exhibition game last season.

"I kind of recall that game last year as being, yeah we got beat, and I don't really remember what the score was, but I saw a lot of good signs in that game, too, that I thought meant good things for going down the road," he said. "And I still see that here, too. It's important that we learn from our technique mistakes and not repeat them.

"(On Sunday) we played the run pretty good, other than the one that popped out of there. Thought we had some good individual efforts. [DT] Justin Smith showed that he's ready to go. Couple other players did also. We just weren't consistent. And I was particularly disappointed in some of the backups' performances after they got in there."

Fangio has been impressed with cornerback Perrish Cox and has been trying to decide how to use him.

"He's a backup nickel right now, a backup corner," Fangio said. "The more three- and four-wide receiver teams that we see, the more he'll get to play. But if he keeps playing the way he's playing and becomes an expert at his craft, we'll find a way to get him in there."

Here's the full transcript of Fangio's conversation with the media on Monday:

Q: Is it time to push the panic button?
Fangio:
In regards to what?

Q: The defense?
Fangio:
No, not yet.

Q: How do you take what happened in Sunday's game?
Fangio:
We just didn't play well enough on certain plays. I think it was a great learning experience for us, in that some of the plays were we broke down, we could have definitely played better. And then in some instances, they just beat us one-on-one. We weren't able to win the one-on-one battles.

Q: In going back to the first preseason game, maybe some overconfidence, is there still some of that? This just being the preseason, are these guys just kind of ready to get Week 1 here?
Fangio:
I think there is some of that. The guys are ready to go, that's for sure and get on to playing in the regular season. This is still great time to learn, perfect your craft, excel on your technique and stuff and we have to be able to do that. And we weren't perfect on that the other night by any means.

Q: Last year, that third preseason game against the Houston Texans, was something similar. Did you recall that at all and how did you use that to get you ready for the regular season?
Fangio:
I kind of recall that game last year as being, yeah we got beat, and I don't really remember what the score was, but I saw a lot of good signs in that game, too, that I thought meant good things for going down the road. And I still see that here, too. It's important that we learn from our technique mistakes and not repeat them.

Q: What were the good things you saw against the Broncos?
Fangio:
(Sunday) we played the run pretty good, other than the one that popped out of there. Thought we had some good individual efforts. [DT] Justin Smith showed that he's ready to go. Couple other players did also. We just weren't consistent. And I was particularly disappointed in some of the backups' performances after they got in there.

Q: Is there anything wrong with CB Tramaine Brock?
Fangio:
He's got a little hand injury that he's fighting through, but nothing that should affect him a great deal.

Q: How would you evaluate Brock's play?
Fangio:
He's played better.

Q: Is CB Perrish Cox, a couple of weeks ago you said somehow, someway you'll have to find a role for him. Do you know what that role is yet?
Fangio:
He's a backup nickel right now, a backup corner. The more three- and four-wide receiver teams that we see, the more he'll get to play. But if he keeps playing the way he's playing and becomes an expert at his craft, we'll find a way to get him in there.

Q: Are you any closer to figuring out the backup situation with the safeties?
Fangio:
No.

Q: Is there anybody who you thought played really well against the Broncos?
Fangio:
I think [S] Trenton Robinson made some improvements. [S Darcel] McBath's been improving some as we've moved forward and getting more comfortable in our system. I think [S] C.J. [Spillman] was up and down a little bit the other night, but he's still, over the long haul, has improved since the beginning.

Q: Some of the guys you cut on your side of the ball, have you addressed some of them?
Fangio:
Who in particular?

Q: LB Kourtnei Brown, DT Matthew Masifilo?
Fangio:
Yeah, we cut a couple guys. Obviously at this time at the camp, you have to let some guys go. You have to let some guys go and sometimes we don't want to. We think they're young guys that have some potential. And they're guys that we will look into, some of the them, potentially as practice squad players or maybe to bring back next offseason when you start signing players in February or guys to keep hot in case you have some injuries.

Q: If you go with three outside linebackers again, is TE/DT Demarcus Dobbs a guy that can fill an emergency role if need be?
Fangio:
He can definitely fulfill a role in our sub stuff as a defensive end. It'd be a tall order for him right now to fulfill as an outside linebacker.

Q: Did you see much of LB Ikaika Alama-Francis?
Fangio:
Yeah, he played a lot last night. He probably played close to 50 plays, if not more. And he did okay for his first time. You've got to consider the guy wasn't here until late last week and didn't have the pads on until I guess it was Monday. And really he did okay in the game. Hopefully he'll make some progress this week and play even better against San Diego.

Q: Do you know what your plan is as far as will your starters play on Thursday?
Fangio:
We haven't totally decided that yet. I think it'll be more so on an individual basis than on a unit basis.

Q: Did you game plan for the game against Denver?
Fangio:
No.

Q: Is that why you don't get hung up, or do you get hung up, on the results?
Fangio:
No, I still think the results bare itself out, particularly when the first group was in there. We were playing stuff that we play all year round. There was just nothing special and maybe we didn't have our guys alerted to their offense as much as you would in the regular season. But no, you're still disappointed in the results because all the defenses we played yesterday are things that we'll carry into each and every game.

Q: LB Ahmad Brooks was saying that QB Peyton Manning was constantly audibling, recognizing what you guys were doing. Did you notice that as well? Was he audibling a lot?
Fangio:
No, he does that a lot anyway. A lot of the stuff he does is dummy signals and tries to get into your head defensively at times. Sometimes he is audibling. He's not the only quarterback in the league that does that. [QB Aaron] Rodgers does it, who we are playing in the first game. I don't think that's anything to be alarmed about.


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