Steve Wilks

Bosa impressed with Wilks' growth in first season as 49ers DC

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SANTA CLARA — The 49ers are relaxing at home during Super Wild Card Weekend, but during the team's three-game losing streak earlier this season, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks found himself under scrutiny for the unit's shortcomings and his decision to coach from the team's booth.

The defense clearly has played better since, but defensive end Nick Bosa believes there was plenty of blame to go around.

“It was stressful at the beginning of the year,” Bosa said this week. “It seemed like everyone was coming after him. I kind of felt bad for him because it’s not one guy’s fault ever in football. I’m happy that it’s kind of calmed down and we’ve figured out our recipe.”

The 49ers' defense figured out how to play more effectively, allowing only 17.5 points per game, the third-fewest in the NFL, and 1.8 touchdowns per game, the second-fewest in the league. More importantly, the 49ers came out winners down the home stretch in seven of their last nine games.

While Wilks made sure to explain that he would not be trying to reinvent the wheel when taking over the defense, there was a clear acclimation process. And with the success of his predecessors — Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans and New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh, the pressure on Wilks was immediate with very little margin for error.

“I think he was trying to figure it out a little bit with what kind of defense we were going to be,” Bosa said. “At the end of the day, we do what we do, and we’ve done it since I’ve been here — zone coverage and rushing four.”

While there have been a few exceptions, with occasional man-coverage and a five-man rush, it appears that Wilks has figured out how to put his players in the best position to win. Now Bosa believes it’s just about execution and effort in the system that has been successful for the club’s defense.

“There’s tons different levels to doing it,” Bosa said. “We need to be at the highest level possible of doing that, if we are we are going to be a really good defense. We just need to get fresh and be flying around when the time comes.”

Bosa and his defensive counterparts will wait through the weekend to see who they will host in the divisional playoff round next weekend, but no matter the opponent, Wilks and his players will be on the same page.

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