Color me blown away. One year ago to this very day, the 49ers were 1-6. Yes, they had lost their quarterback, and were struggling offensively, but to say the defense was holding its end up was light years away from reality. By game 7 last year, the 49ers had given up 214 points on defense. An average of 31 points a game.
This year? 64 points. An average of 9 points a game! Unreal.
I was at the end of my rope with Robert Saleh as the team went through stretches where wide receivers were left wide open without a defender within 15 yards of them. 3rd down screen plays that gained 25 yards, and gashing runs that left the linemen chasing air. As the drudgery of the wasted season dragged on, the defense did show signs of improvement. Some of that improvement came on the back of replacing the Beater with Nick Mullens and an offense that did more than in previous games, but guys weren’t left wide wide open, and the run defense incrementally improved.
We had a decent D line, but little else. The GLARING needs were pass rush, and turnovers. The braintrust went out and got Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander, and drafted Nick Bosa, and Dre Greenlaw. They, for all intents and purposes, ignored the defensive backfield (unless you count Jason (burnt toast) Verritt as a worthy addition. I don’t.
Hmmm. How has that worked out? Well, we are the #1 defense in yards/game, #1 in pass defense, #2 in points allowed/game, #8 in run defense yards/game, #5 in takeaways, #4 in interceptions, and #5 in sacks. We have given up the fewest 1st downs.
Sea change? Well, last to first defensively? Sure. What I think is interesting is the fact that they believed in the defensive backfield as it currently existed in 2018. Ahkello Witherspoon went from mediocre to spectacular. Emmanuel Moseley came out of nowhere (undrafted) to be a more-than- competent backup in Witherspoon’s absence. Oft-hurt Jimmie Ward played fantastic last week against the Rams, and has been a steadying force. Ad Richard Sherman? Well, he’s completely over his achilles problem and his pickless 2018 has been forgotten with his 2 picks so far, including the pick 6 vs Tampa.