© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The 49ers’ defense was very good on Sunday. So good, in fact, that when Ahkello Witherspoon went to swap jerseys with Mike Evans after grabbing his first career pick-six (he’s got the jersey and ball stowed away for safekeeping) and three pass deflections (including one in which he covered Evans perfectly on a go route along the left sideline) in a 31-17 49ers win, Evans was a bit suspicious.
“He told me I did a really good job,” Witherspoon said. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this, but he was asking me if we knew the offense. I was like, ‘No, we’re just out here playing ball my man, but thanks for the compliment.’ It was crazy. I was like, ‘No, not at all, but can you sign that for me?’ It was funny. It was like see you next time… just love to compete against a guy like that.”
The 49ers secured four turnovers, three interceptions and two pick-sixes on Sunday. The turnover total moves the team more than halfway past their record-low of seven last season, while the interceptions and pick-sixes have already exceeded the woeful interception (2) and defensive touchdown (1) totals of the 2018 campaign.
In addition to a fantastic pass rush, Witherspoon was, by any standard, fantastic. Richard Sherman credited Witherspoon after the game as having taken a massive leap mentally in not getting upset about a missed play and not being overly giddy about a good one. He received an 80.8 grade from Pro Football Focus, the highest among all 49ers defensive players.
The change was evident in Witherspoon’s answer about how much his confidence grew following his performance:
“Very little,” Witherspoon said. “My confidence was out the roof going into Sunday. It doesn’t really waver. A good performance shouldn’t take you out the roof, either. It’s just staying in my same place and just continuing to build. That’s the big thing, though. When you have a big game, you want to build on it and get better next week.”