SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Making his 100th-straight start, the solid and sturdy new 49ers safety made it count.
Going against one of the league's most explosive offenses, Antoine Bethea helped San Francisco's defense pitch a shutout. He forced two turnovers, made a team-high seven tackles, and called out Nick Foles audibles helping his new teammates hold the Eagles to just 22 yards rushing en route to the five-point win Sunday.
Bethea was named NFC defensive player of the week Wednesday for that effort, earning that honor for the first time in his nine NFL seasons.
Bethea went into the game against Philadelphia officially listed as "questionable" after getting treatment for an ankle injury late in the week, but it didn't prevent him from being the best player on the field for his defense. His forced fumble on tight end Zach Ertz in the third quarter led to Stevie Johnson's touchdown. He also added an interception.
But Bethea's most important contribution might have come on the Eagle's penultimate drive late in the fourth quarter when they were kept out of the end zone despite having two tries from the 1-yard line. On second-and-goal, Bethea kept last season's leading rushing LeSean McCoy out of the end zone on a run to the left that appeared to be the Eagles' best scoring chance of the sequence.
He blitzed and pressured Foles on third down forcing an incompletion as he looked for Ertz in the left corner of the end zone. And Bethea was in coverage on the fourth-down play that went awry for the Eagles, in a play the team had practiced during the week.
The 49ers held Philadelphia, the league's third-highest scoring team, to zero points offensively.
"That’s what you play defense for," Bethea said post game. "We don’t come out here on the field and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to let them score a touchdown.’ You come out here to keep the team out of the end zone and a doughnut on the scoreboard."
Bethea and the 49ers defense has the unique challenge of going up against their former quarterback Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs this week. Led by Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs have the fourth-ranked rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 145.2 yards per game.
Editor's note: Here's a feature story from Sept. 17 on Bethea's "Seamless" transition to his new team.
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