49ers’ Wilks takes responsibility for zero-blitz call vs. Vikings

49ers’ Wilks takes responsibility for zero-blitz call vs. Vikings originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SANTA CLARA — After calling a zero-blitz at the end of the first half that led to a touchdown by the Minnesota Vikings in the 49ers‘ Week 7 loss, San Francisco’s defensive coordinator Steve Wilks had a little explaining to do.

“I take full responsibility for that call,” Wilks said on Thursday. “I have to do a better job in putting the guys in a better position. We have good players. I know that, and I can’t really press the issue. Moving forward, it’s my responsibility. I wish I could take it back, but again, I got to do better.”

Wilks is known for his experience as a defensive backs coach and is often seen working closely with members of the secondary during the early portion of practice. On Thursday, however, the coach was studiously looking at notes while standing near the defensive line, before working with the defensive backs and safeties.

The 49ers defensive line, that has been the foundation of the team, has been markedly less productive than it has in the past. The group was unable to get pressure on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, allowing a season-high 452 yards yards of offense.

The biggest influence on the outcome of the club’s second consecutive loss was a season-high three turnovers by the offense. Still, allowing 378 yards in the air is not a statistic anyone can ignore.

“Our players have shown the ability to do certain things I got to be able to trust that,” Wilks said. “I know exactly what we have and the caliber of guys there. Once again I take full responsibility for putting those guys in that position.”

The 49ers have the third-lowest quarterback sack total in the league with 15, and three of those were not even made by the defensive line group — Linebacker Fred Warner has recorded two and De Greenlaw one.

Wilks admitted there has been an adjustment period since his arrival in Santa Clara.

“It’s always challenging when you’ve done your own thing for 17 years,” Wilks said. “It’s a little different, but I’m encouraged, I’ve got a great supporting cast. These coaches around me are phenomenal. They know this defense, they know their craft and these players are great. We are all in this together, I’m not hitting the panic button.”

Cleaning up errors in coverage becomes even more important with the Cincinnati Bengals coming to Levi’s Stadium on Sunday. While quarterback Joe Burrow has been dealing with a calf strain for much of the season, the club is coming off their bye week, and the quarterback is likely arriving the healthiest he’s been all season.

Burrow’s No. 1 target, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, has already caught 50 of his 73 targets for 556 yards and three touchdowns through six contests. For comparison, the 49ers’ top receiver, Brandon Aiyuk has 511 yards through his six games and two scores.

Wilks has said in the past that he would not be trying to reinvent the wheel with the 49ers’ defense and shared that he has taken note of what worked for the two past men in his position — New York Jets head coach Robert Sales and Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans.

“I think you have to, because it’s based off the defense and this defense is a unique defense,” Wilks said. “There are certain things that go with that particular defense and I’m learning that. I’m not panicking, I know we have the personnel, I know we have the talent and I just have to do a better job putting them in that position.”

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