Defensive confidence makes 49ers genuine NFC contenders

Nearly perfect defensive unit play has San Francisco in the Divisional Round, looking to go further

SANTA CLARA — While Sunday’s game of the Wild Card Round in front of the Dallas Cowboys seemed to be slipping away in the final moments, a quiet sense of calm remained in the bench of the San Francisco 49ers.

In the four possessions since the wide receiver Deebo Samuel escaped for a 26-yard rushing touchdown, the Los Angeles offense Niners he walked away with punt, interception, punt and punt, and a 16-point lead was cut to 6. Still, no one on the offense of San Francisco seemed to panic that leaving behind the cowboys and get into the Divisional Round of the playoffs of the NFLI would be in doubt.

The reason for the relative serenity on the sidelines? A defense that once again showed that it could withstand the attacks of the most prolific offense in the NFL.

“Those guys really did their part,” the quarterback said. Jimmy Garoppolo. “It’s the reason I felt like we were so in control of the game. It’s a good offense they were up against, and they kept them in check the whole game. It was really impressive.”

What the defensive coordinator of the 49ers, DeMeco Ryans, and his group against the cowboys during a 23-17 victory it was perhaps his best performance of the season, given the quality of the opponent and everything that was at stake in the matchup. The defense of Ryan’s braked to Dallas in 17 points, 307 yards and 4.4 yards per play, a far cry from the season averages of 31.2, 407 and 6.0, respectively. The 49ers they did it even though the defensive end Nick Bosa (shock) missed the second half, and the linebacker fred warner left early in the fourth quarter due to an ankle injury.

The defense of 49ers proved that it is, in fact, a dominant group capable of serving as the centerpiece of a legitimate contender for the title of the NFC.

“The defense has been playing pretty impressive all year,” left tackle acknowledged. Trent Williams. “I don’t think we would be where we are today if we just had a slightly above-average defense. I think our defense has to be great for us to be good and great.”

After the departure last offseason of the coordinator Robert Saleh to the New York Jets As a head coach, there was always going to be a learning curve for Ryan’s, a first-year coordinator. There were some early problems, including a Week 3 loss to the Green Bay Packers where they needed just 37 seconds to get into field goal position and pull out a last-minute 30-28 win.

Ryan’s he has settled in ever since, figuring out a better pace for disguising pass coverage and combining calls. San Francisco finished third in the NFL in yards per game allowed (310), sixth in yards per play (5.11), sixth in passing yards allowed per game (206.5) and seventh in rushing allowed per game (103.5).

They did it by playing a lot of zone coverage and leaning into the front four to create pressure on the quarterback. San Francisco played zone on 66.1 percent of snaps (third-most in the NFL) and limited opposing quarterbacks to a QBR of 41.5 (14th).

What Saleh before him, Ryan’s he developed a better sense of when to charge, often preferring to stick to his front four to do most of the damage in terms of pressure. The Niners they finished the season with 48 sacks, tied for the fifth-best total in the league, and the same total they posted in 2019 when the defensive line was considered one of the most dangerous in the league. San Francisco he finished third in pass-back sacks (7.7 percent), first in forced fumbles (22) and fifth in pass play win rate against blocks (45.9 percent).

Ryan’s has a knack for sending loads at the right time, and he did it in the face of cowboys, sending everything he had against the quarterback dak prescott to force an incomplete pass deep in the fourth quarter with less than two minutes left.

DeMeco been incredible all year,” said head coach Kyle Shanahan. “I thought DeMeco did a perfect job today of combining and sending the [carga] zero, there at the end on fourth try”.

The 49ers they zoned in 82 percent of the moves against Prescott, the highest rate he has faced in his career. He finished with a 23 QBR and averaged 4.5 yards per pass return, both his second-lowest numbers this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

What’s more, the Niners They added five sacks and 22 rushes, in addition to limiting the running back of the cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott, 31 yards on 12 carries. San Francisco hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since the Los Angeles quarterback Chicago BearsJustin Fields, I got it on Halloween.

Credit for that goes to the subtle but effective personnel move he made. Ryan’s when he asked the defensive lineman Arik Armstead line up as a full-time defensive tackle, after the injury that ended the season of Javon Kinlaw.

“He’s the most important piece of the team, to me,” defensive tackle said. DJ-Jones. “I think that Arik Armstead it is a force. He can play power outside, inside… he’s a Swiss Army knife.”

Things will not be easy this week with Aaron Rodgers and the packers on the schedule, but it would be hard to find a defense playing with more confidence than the Niners.

“We went in there and did what we needed to do,” the free safety explained. Jimmie Ward after defeating the cowboys. “Slow down the race and force them to be one-dimensional, and see if Prescott I could win the match for them.”

Where Prescott failed, the defense of the 49ers triumph.

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