San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks fielded questions about his Week 8 game plan on Thursday. But first, he chose to address a call that stood out in the team's 22-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.
The 54-year-old called an all-out blitz with Minnesota facing a third-and-6 at its 40 with no timeouts left late in the second quarter. It backfired as Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins found receiver Jordan Addison for a 60-yard touchdown for a 16-7 lead.
Wilks expressed regret in his opening statement Thursday, saying that he would've addressed it sooner but wanted to move on immediately after the game.
"I take full responsibility for that call," he said. "I have to do a better job in putting the guys in a better position. We have good players. I know that and can't really press the issue and with that moving forward, it's my responsibility to do that. So I wish I could take it back, but again, I've got to do better."
There are multiple reasons the call came under intense scrutiny. It happened just after the Niners cut the lead from 10-0 to 10-7 with roughly a minute remaining in the half.
Wilks sent seven players in Cousins' direction with single coverage on three receivers. Linebacker Fred Warner was dropping from the line to seemingly cover tight end T.J. Hockenson. But Hockenson was never a threat. Cousins clocked the incoming pressure before the snap and went for the deep shot, he said.
It was the first time since Week 11 of the 2020 season that a team ran an all-out blitz with less than 30 seconds in a half on the opponent’s side of the 50, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats.
Instead of San Francisco going into the second half with momentum, the Vikings scored on a pass that should've been intercepted. Head coach Kyle Shanahan was supportive of Wilks on Wednesday, noting that the call would've been fine if there hadn't been 16 seconds left.
In most other situations, Minnesota wouldn't likely have had time to get into the end zone before the clock expired.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) October 24, 2023
It's unclear whether Shanahan considered overruling the call. Defensive tackle Arik Armstead addressed it on his podcast, saying that the team still stands behind its defensive coordinator.
Wilks will have an opportunity to rebound Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. "We definitely have a challenge ahead of us," he said.