Warner, 49ers' defense shoulders responsibility to improve


The objective of new 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks is to take something that was the best in the NFL and make it even better.

Wilks said last week during his first interview session since taking over for new Houston Texans coach DeMeco Ryans that he envisions the 49ers being more aggressive on defense.

NBC Sports Bay Area’s Laura Britt asked Warner recently at the Dwight Clark Legacy Series whether that was even possible.

“It’s always possible,” Warner answered. “And I’ll always say, ‘Defense wins championships.’ It’s going to start and end with us.

“We take that on our shoulders, that responsibility. And we need to be better.”

The 49ers have owned a top-five NFL defense each of the past four seasons. But the big prize has eluded the 49ers despite winning multiple playoff games in three of the past four seasons.

The 49ers’ season came to an end in January with a 31-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. Quarterback Brock Purdy sustained a significant elbow injury on the fifth play, and the 49ers could not muster enough on either side of the ball to make it a game in the second half.

“To say that last year’s ending was hurtful, it was,” Warner said. “It sucks the way that it ended. I feel like we never had a chance to really compete in that game.”

Warner, a two-time All-Pro performer and team captain, said he felt as if his side of the ball could have done more to keep the team in the game longer.

“What are the ways could our defense have been better in that game? That’s what I’m looking at,” he said. “How could I have been better for our team and our defense?”

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A high percentage of players have been back in Santa Clara for the offseason program, which transitions to organized team activities next week. Warner said it in important to cut no corners in order to give the team its best chance at another deep postseason run.

“I think we’re for sure taking steps in the right direction right now,” Warner said. “We’re doing the tedious work of going out on the field and in the weight room and putting the work in because you don’t just snap your fingers and you’re back in that game.

“You got to take each step, one step at a time. And so that’s what we’re doing right now.”

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