SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — When Super Bowl LIV kicks off, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh says he wants to have eliminated all doubt in his players’ minds how they will attack the potent Kansas City Chiefs offense.
“It’s our philosophy in this system to eliminate gray area from players, as much as you can,” Saleh told reporters at his Thursday news conference. “Gray area always creates hesitation. You want these players playing in a world of black and white so they know what’s expected of them so they can go as fast as humanly possible.”
Speed with be a key to limiting the time the Chiefs outstanding quarterback Patrick Mahomes has to create explosive, game-changing plays. For the 49ers, that will mean the quickness off the ball of its talented defensive line.
And that planning begins with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.
“Kocurek is the definition of black and white,” Saleh said. “He’s very clear and cut with what he’s asking of the players. He’s very clear and cut with his techniques. Nothing changes. Just because a player’s movement doesn’t change you, your technique, your effort level, your aiming points, everything is very, very clear for those players.”
San Francisco 49ers defensive line in anchored by rookie star Nick Bosa, former Kansas City Chief Dee Ford, future free agent Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner.
The edge rush of Bosa and Ford may be pivotal to San Francisco’s success on Super Bowl Sunday.
“When you have edge rushers it speeds up the process of the quarterback, and, not that he (Mahomes) needs speeding up, he already gets rid of it pretty quick,” Saleh said. “But, it changes the game. Like I talked about last week, it unlocks the offensive line so it creates a little bit more space and it gives the guys inside more space to operate.”
Fatigue may also play a factor. Pressure will be on backups Solomon Thomas, Anthony Zettle and Sheldon Day to play well while the starters get a breather.
“We have a philosophy to roll with eight on defense on the defensive line,” Saleh said. “You want to come at them at waves. You want to stay fresh. You want to keep going. All gas, keep them rolling, so they don’t pace themselves. A lot of times you get so stuck with playing your best four all the time that those guys understand they’re going to be out there for a while so they pace themselves. We don’t want them pacing themselves. We want them rolling.”
He said he hoped to steal “about 20 to 25 snaps” of rest for his starters on Super Bowl Sunday.
“We try to keep their snaps down,” the 49ers chief defensive strategist said. “So, picking and choosing. Kocurek does a great job in that regard, making sure that those guys are fresh, keeping their snaps as low as possible. So, you may see where Buck (Buckner), Armstead and Bosa are off the field to start a drive, just to, we feel good about where we’re at, get a couple of stops, third down, get them out there.”
“So, we’re trying to steal, on average, about 20 to 25 snaps a game from those front four, the first four, throughout the game. And you’re just trying to feel out the game and how it’s going and try to steal as many snaps as you can.”
And when it comes to intensity, it’s not just the players on the field. Saleh chuckled when asked to describe Kocurek’s intensity both on the practice field and during games.
“Coach (former NFL coach Jim) Washburn, when we first hired him, I think he, in an article, said it best, he’s a raccoon on meth, if you guys can imagine what that might look like,” Saleh said.