SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers' defense is upholding its tough-guy reputation, regardless of who's starting, backing up or merely auditioning.
Neither Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos nor Alex Smith's Kansas City Chiefs could score a touchdown against the 49ers' top unit. Same goes for whatever reserves took the field.
"It bodes well," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said after Friday's 15-13 win at Kansas City.
While the 49ers offense scours for receiver help and a reliable No. 2 quarterback, the defense is confirming a sense of depth.
All seven sacks Friday came from backup players: cornerback Perrish Cox (two), nose tackle Mike Purcell and linebackers Parys Haralson, Corey Lemonier, Nate Stupar and Cam Johnson.
"A lot of guys are stepping up and making plays," linebacker Aldon Smith said.
Anyone notice Patrick Willis isn't playing, a result of a broken hand that he should return from in Week 1? Or that No. 3 cornerback Chris Culliver is gone with a season-ending knee injury?
Most of the defensive starters have had mere cameos through two exhibitions, the same as the 49ers' offensive skill-position players. Harbaugh doesn't want anything "freakish" to happen, and if that isn't every team's preseason motto, then the alternative is: "Find depth."
On the defensive line, Demarcus Dobbs, Will Tukuafu and Glenn Dorsey are looking solid, as is Tony Jerod-Eddie, even if he drew a roughing-the-passer penalty against Alex Smith.
The 49ers could use Jerod-Eddie, a 2012 undrafted rookie, to help back up Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. Dobbs is an option there, but he's suspended for Week 1 for a substance-abuse violation. Tank Carradine, a 2013 second-round pick, isn't near ready to return from a knee injury.
"I've learned a lot in the past year from Justin and Ray," Jerod-Eddie said. "It was good to be mentored, and now I can show what they taught me."
Cox's two sacks earned him kudos from Harbaugh, and fellow cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha continued to show the spark and aggressiveness of his Raiders days. Rookie Eric Reid again played with a physical presence at safety.
At outside linebacker, the 49ers look especially deep. Lemonier and Dan Skuta are off to impressive starts, and Haralson has shown that last season's torn triceps is fully healed.
FRANK GORE HAD two carries in his exhibition debut, starting with a 52-yard burst past the blocks of Joe Staley, Marlon Moore, Vernon Davis and even Colin Kaepernick. "I was happy to be back out there with my guys," Gore said. "We haven't been out there as much as we want to, but when we are out there, we make things happen."
CHAD HALL AND A.J. Jenkins saw the most snaps among wideouts, each with 38. Next were Ricardo Lockette (24), Austin Collie (21), Chuck Jacobs (20), Kassim Osgood (16) and Lavelle Hawkins (13). Starters Anquan Boldin and Moore played only the four-snap opening series.