By: Cole A. McMahon
(Photo by: IG: @49ers)
The two biggest themes of Monday night’s game can be described in two “D" words: Defense and Deebo.
In a must-win game, the 49ers took down the Rams for a 7th consecutive time in the regular season. The 49ers’ defense is the talk of the town after not allowing a single touchdown in a 24-9 victory. If you could not tell already, this defense is the real deal as they have only allowed 37 points in the season so far with opposing teams only averaging 9.25 PPG. According to ESPN, the biggest weakness for this 49ers’ defense is the 49ers’ offense. That is how good this defense is. ESPN cannot even come up with a single critique about this defense.
Demeco Ryans should be given high praise for utilizing this talent and creating an elite NFL defense. Every level of the defense has been lights out. In Monday’s game, the 49ers’ recorded seven sacks on Stafford: Nick Bosa (2), Samson Ebukam (2), Charles Omenihu (1), Hassan Ridgeway (1), Deommodore Lenoir (1). Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner had a big impact on the game with a combined 24 tackles. Greenlaw again led the defense in tackles with 15.
The biggest change for this defense has been the dominance of the Secondary with both cornerbacks and safeties. Charvarius Ward has proven to be a key signing for this defense as he continues to shine by playing great coverage and having key pass breakups. In the third quarter, Ward was covering Allen Robinson which resulted in a PBU preventing a touchdown for the Rams. Similarly, Emmanuel Moseley has been playing lockdown corner and had himself a good day putting the clamps on receivers. Props also have to be given to Lenoir for picking up a sack coming off the edge in a corner blitz. The 49ers have seemed to fix a long-standing issue at the cornerback position that may be the difference maker for the defense as a whole. Talanoa Hufanga (A.K.A. mini Troy) again made an impact in the game this time by picking off Matthew Stafford and returning in for six. Earlier in the game, Tashaun Gipson had a sure INT thrown straight to him but dropped it in the end zone. Huf needed to prove that safeties can catch the ball. Besides the dropped INT by Gipson, he and Hufanga have been a solid tandem and brings a solid problem for the Niners as Jimmie Ward has returned to practice this week. Jason Verrett has also returned to practice, but the Niners do not need to rush either of them into the mix of things because of how well both safeties and corners have been performing.
The Bosa Sack Meter went off again as Nick Bosa picked up his fifth and sixth sacks of the year–even after being chokeheld multiple times. Deebo has the title as the owner of the Rams, but Bosa appears to be taking co-ownership of them as well. Bosa is on track to have 25.5 sacks on the season (22.5 is the sack record) in four games while averaging 1.5 sacks per game. Although it is still early in the season, Bosa is showing hints of having a historic season and putting up an early case for Defensive Player of the Year.
You almost do not need to talk about the offense this game which is a good thing because they played well enough. Jeff Wilson Jr. scored the first touchdown for the Niners on a 32-yard run and cutback up the middle. Deebo Samuel would be the second scorer for the 49ers on a 57-yard catch and run in the second quarter. Jimmy G delivered a high ball that Deebo snatched and took to the house after shaking multiple tackles. One shaken tackle was Deebo bouncing off a weak attempt by Jalen Ramsey to bring down the tough receiver.
Jimmy G himself had a much better game than last week completing 16/27 with 237 passing yards and 1 TD. Garoppolo was able to execute and get the ball to his receivers quickly while having a clean pocket to work with. Aaron Donald was only able to get to Jimmy G once, but with no success as Jimmy quickly got the ball out to his receiver.
The offensive line was impressive in the game while missing Trent Williams and then Colton McKivitz getting taken out of the game with an MCL sprain. The left tackle position may be the weakest piece of this team now as they go to third-stringer Jaylon Moore in hopes he secures the left side of the line.
The biggest criticism of the game comes from an offensive drive where the Niners found themselves at the two-yard line after an eight-yard screen to Deebo who came just short of scoring. On the second down play, Wilson Jr. could not find any space getting stopped at the line of scrimmage and pushed out of bounds. Third down, Jimmy G made a terrific pass to Kittle in the back of the end zone, but he could not get two feet in for a touchdown. Kyle Shanahan decided to kick a field goal to make the game 17-9 at the start of the fourth quarter. Instead of making a statement by going for it on fourth down, Shanahan took the safer route. However, if the Niners did not score on fourth down, the Rams would have been backed up at the two-yard line with the 49ers’ defense in their faces. A questionable call by Shanahan could have created a different result especially if Hufanga did not collect a pick-6. Shanahan needs to learn how to put opposing teams to rest by being aggressive with his offense and scoring touchdowns rather than field goals. Although it worked out, you cannot expect your defense to cement games with pick-6s every time.
Defense and Deebo are two words that summed up this game and by the end of the year might sum up the 49ers’ season. These two create the perfect concoction for winning games and proved to dominate the Los Angeles Rams once again in an exciting fashion.