How Ward rose to Shanahan’s last-second Metcalf challenge vs. Seahawks

NBC Sports Bay Area

SEATTLE — Just before kickoff of the 49ers’ 31-13 win over the Seahawks on Thursday night at Lumen Field, Charvarius Ward was given a tall task: Follow Seattle wide receiver DK Metcalf.

Ward hadn’t followed a receiver yet this season, but he went on to prove why San Francisco signed the cornerback as a free agent before the 2022 NFL season.

“The game plan wasn’t for me to follow him,” Ward said after the game. “They told me to do it, and I was up for the task. I feel like I had a pretty good game. [Defensive backs coach] Daniel Bullocks came up to me and said, ‘We need you to follow him. They want you to match up with him.’

“So, that’s what I did. That’s what CB1s do.”

Ward did not disappoint. The six-year NFL veteran held Metcalf to three catches on nine targets for 32 yards and no touchdowns. The cornerback also registered five total tackles — three solo — and broke up three passes.

Coach Kyle Shanahan, who ultimately made the final call for Ward to shadow Metcalf, was impressed by what he saw.

“From what I saw out there, I thought he was unbelievable,” Shanahan said after the game. “I don’t get to see all of it, so I’m excited to watch it on the plane. He’s been pretty consistent. I thought he had an unbelievable game last year up here on Thursday night, and very similar tonight.”

During that Week 15 contest last season in Seattle that Shanahan mentioned, Ward held Metcalf to seven receptions on nine targets for 55 yards. The defensive back also registered six tackles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

Shanahan believes Ward excels in covering top receivers, which could influence the cornerback’s future assignments.

“That’s definitely how I’d like it to be,” Shanahan said. “Just how he’s played in the past, and he didn’t hesitate. He was up for the challenge. He’s been up for it last year and he was up for it today. He didn’t disappoint. It was impressive.” 

Ward quietly has had solid season but joked there’s something special about Thursday nights in Seattle.

“It’s the all-white uniforms,” Ward said with a smile. “Every time we put them on, I feel faster. I feel good. When you feel good, look good, you play good.”

On thing that did change for Ward after this matchup with Seattle was his first postgame conversation with Metcalf, who he says usually is a talker on the field.

“Most of the time he is, but tonight he was pretty chill, pretty laid back,” Ward said. “I don’t know why, but that was my first time ever shaking his hand after a game. He came up to me and told me he has a lot of respect for me. I was surprised.”

Ward has another tough task ahead. After a few extra days off, the cornerback will start preparing to cover A.J. Brown and the Philadelphia Eagles.

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