San Francisco 49ers Run-Stuffing Defense Creating One-Dimensional Opponents
Week 1 vs Sea: 64
Week 2 vs Dal: 45
Week 3 vs Cin: 79
Week 4 vs Phi: 108
Week 5 vs: TB: 86
Week 6 vs Det: 66
These aren't your lucky Lotto numbers. These are the paltry rushing yards opposing offenses have mustered up against the stout Niners defense in 2011 thus far. The lone 100-yard rushing day coming from a combined Eagles effort led by well-known scrambler QB Michael Vick.
The 49ers defense is being led by NaVorro Bowman with 43 solo tackles and Patrick Willis with 37. Rookie 1st rounder Aldon Smith leads the team with 5.5 sacks and Justin Smith is second on the team with 4.5. Showcasing why the linebackers and front four of our defense are rock-solid, these numbers hammer home the unrelenting pressure the Niners are unleashing on opposing offenses.
Stats aside, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is creating defensive schemes that are suited for the talent available. This has not always been the case with the Niners. Instead of just adapting to the "hit 'em in the mouth" philosophy, the 49ers are executing and applying pressure without having to brandish a pseudo-1970's Steel Curtain "smashmouth" persona.
The Niners can just be themselves for a change and play fundamentally instead of erratically.
It was remarkable to hear that the Niners didn't rush more than four players at a time throughout the Detroit game. Looking back - even when Donte Whitner came through on a safety blitz - this was true. Aldon Smith has made Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke look like geniuses more and more every day.
And if Harbaugh concurs with Fangio that this was the "best defensive performance he's ever been a part of," then we have to say that the Niners defense is the pumping, pulsating heartbeat of this team.
QB's Have to Air it Out
The Niners are forcing teams to throw and punishing them for it.
Teams are averaging 39 pass attempts per game against the 49ers. Compare that to an average of 21 rush attempts and I'd say opposing teams need to really consider how they're going to beat the Niners from here on out.
Sure the Niners are allowing an average of one touchdown per game through the air, but they haven't allowed any rushing touchdowns at all this year!
And sure Vick threw for a career-high 416 passing yards and Tony Romo for 345 yards but the Niners were still able to beat Philadelphia. They also should have beat Dallas in a game that went into overtime.
In fact, if the secondary is the weakest spot on the defensive side of the ball, we could say that the deep ball is the Niner's achille's heal. Vick's 61-yard bomb to WR Desean Jackson and Romo's 77-yard completion to WR Jesse Holley in overtime to seal that game exposed a glaring mark on the Niner's almost-perfect canvas.
I'm not calling the Niner's perfect by any stretch. We're not even halfway through the season. But thus far, San Fran has held the usually-solid Josh Freeman and upstart Andy Dalton to zero touchdown passes. On top of that, the defense forced Tavaris Jackson and Michael Vick to throw a combined two interceptions. Finally, when Romo breaks a rib, and when Matt Stafford gets slammed in the endzone for a safety, you've got to say San Francisco's defense is an early candidate for Defense of the Year - or at least number one Defense that Quarterbacks Fear.
Furthermore, Stafford did not look comfortable at all throughout the game, and the constant three-and-outs attest to the fact that they weren't sure what to do once their running game and Calvin Johnson became neutralized (Yeah, Megatron still had over 100 yards receiving, but for the first time this year, he didn't score).
The Niners are not only learning how to play a full four quarters, but they're learning how to win. With a defense that is finally attacking the opposing quarterback with constant pressure, the Niners have set up a trap where the quarterback is the mouse and our secondary the cheese. The 49ers now have to make sure the trap snaps when the opposing quarterback releases the ball...
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