One of the San Francisco 49ers' most expensive free agent acquisitions has played his way out of the starting lineup.
Slumping cornerback Antonio Langham was benched Monday, a day after rookie quarterback Peyton Manning burned him for three touchdown passes to Marvin Harrison. The 49ers (5-1) had to rally behind two late touchdown runs by Steve Youngand a field goal by Wade Richey to pull out a 34-31 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
Langham, a four-year starter for the Cleveland Browns-Baltimore Ravens, was signed to a five-year, $17 million contract, including a $3.2 million signing bonus. But he has struggled from the get-go with the 49ers, drawing eight penalties and surrendering six touchdowns in six games.
"It's a strange one because he came in here with a good reputation, a good performer, a good guy," coach Steve Mariucci said. "He has a good work ethic. He was consistent in practice and in meetings and he's conscientious. He's all of those things. He's had some things happen to him on the football field that I tink have shaken his confidence. There's no getting around that or moon walking over it."
Marquez Pope, who saw his first action of the season against the Colts after missing the first five games due to a lower back strain, is Langham's likely replacement. Rookie R.W. McQuarters also will be considered.
Langham wasn't immediately available for comment Monday but he was aware after the game that his starting position was in jeopardy.
"Whatever happens, happens," Langham said Sunday. "It's life. Life goes on with or without me. You know what happens when they beat you. You've got to deal with it as it comes."
With so much invested in Langham, the 49ers had resisted demoting him, giving him a vote of confidence after he drew three penalties and gave up a touchdown in a 26-21 loss at Buffalo on Oct. 4.
He played well during San Francisco's 31-0 victory at New Orleans last week, but that has been the only game this season in which he hasn't been beaten for a score or drawn a flag.
Langham had a relapse against the Colts.
Taken in by Harrison's fakes, Langham kept losing his footing and then was slow breaking on the ball, allowing Harrison to gather in scoring passes of 4 and 6 yards from Manning.
In the third quarter, with the 49ers in an all-out blitz and dependent on their corners for one-on-one coverage, Harrison beat Langham on a quick sideline route and then broke his tackle en route to a 61-yard touchdown. Langham sprained his left ankle on the play and didn't return.
Mariucci said Langham's ankle sprain wasn't serious and he was expected to be in uniform for next Sunday's game at St. Louis. His role hasn't been determined but the 49ers will consider using him on special teams and as a part of their nickel defensive alignment on obvious passing downs.
"I think emotionally, pretty much he's hit bottom and now he's got to bounce back up somehow," Mariucci said. "We need to find a way where he can get his confidence back and find a way to contribute to the team's success. I think it's going to be a gradual thing."
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