49ers' defense looks for sharp performance 

click to enlarge Patrick Willis - GODOFREDO VASQUEZ/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Godofredo Vasquez/special to the s.f. examiner
  • Patrick Willis

Despite the 49ers turning away the Minnesota Vikings on Friday and keeping the Vikes from invading the end zone, Vic Fangio was not pleased.  

“We were not sharp at all,” said San Francisco’s defensive coordinator of his starting squad, which allowed two field goals along with a 52-yard pass and an offsides penalty on its opening two defensive drives.
His players didn’t disagree.

“He has every right to be [upset]. We didn’t come out and play up to our full potential,” Patrick Willis said despite the 17-6 win. “It was our first game, and those mistakes we made in the first game we can’t make in the second one.”

That second one will come Saturday as San Francisco embarks on its first road trip against the Houston Texans, who in their previous preseason appearance bested the Carolina Panthers 26-13 while amassing 375 offensive yards.

But while Fangio is accustomed to managing one of the stingiest defenses in the league, the preseason opener  wasn’t all bad. The 49ers limited Minnesota to 208 offensive yards, muscled four sacks and forced an interception.

And while some have labeled the defense conceited, Willis prefers the term “confident.”

“I think you have to have that, and when you have it, you have to believe it,” Willis said. “You have to walk with a swagger, as I guess they would say.”

Someone who demonstrated such swagger was linebacker Eric Bakhtiari, whom Willis has labeled the “hometown hero.” The Burlingame native recorded two of the team’s four sacks and led the way with four tackles.
And Bakhtiari, despite being 27, has amassed only one year of experience.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys that are willing to go to war,” Vernon Davis said. “They don’t know what the future holds for them. But what you do see is those guys, they’re willing to work. ”

This weekend’s matchup will feature more roster battles between quarterbacks. Coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed that after quarterback Alex Smith starts Saturday, Colin Kaepernick, Josh Johnson and Scott Tolzien will follow in that order.

But while many are battling to make the cut in August, there are some simply fighting to get back. Receiver Michael Crabtree missed most of the start of training camp, but started against the Vikings, and will see action this weekend.

“Mike’s having a really good camp,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said.

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