Robert Saleh’s 49ers Defense Is Emerging As One Of The NFL’s Best

The 49ers defense has been phenomenal this season under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. They are coming off a dominating outing against the Los Angeles Rams, in which the Rams scored on their first offensive possession which was both the first and last time they scored on the Niners defense. From the 9:17 mark of the first quarter the Rams were shut out. In summary, the game was ultimately won by the 49ers on 3rd and 4th down. Believe it or not San Francisco held the Rams to a combined 0/13 on 3rd and 4th down, one of the best performances by any defense ever in NFL history.

Like any other team it all starts in the trenches for this 49ers defense. On their first possession of the game the Rams came out looking to make a statement as they ran the ball consecutively on their first 7 plays, and capped off a 56 yard drive with a TD making it look rather easy against San Francisco’s front 7. This would normally have set the tone for an offense looking to take advantage of poor gap discipline and a lack of execution, but on the very next defensive series the Niners got back on track forcing the Rams to go 3 and out, allowing San Francisco to take charge of the game.

The Niners defense brought an extreme level of physicality and grit to the field, stopping three 3rd/4th down runs with a yard or less to go, twice on the goal line, not to mention 2 sacks on 3rd down as well. The 49ers defense was playing flawless football, sucking the life out of LA’s offense. In fact, even Sean McVay was forced out of character as it seemed he didn’t trust his offense, specifically the O-line against the 49ers front. The Rams were calling WR screens and running the ball on 3rd and 18 trying to protect Goff and get the ball out of his hands. Most surprising of all they chose to punt the ball down by 13 points with just 4:38 left in the game, pretty much admitting defeat.

Despite their offensive struggles in the 1st half the Rams were able to take the game to halftime at a 7-7 tie, after Robbie Gould missed a 55 yard field goal for the Niners. Unfortunately for LA, on the very first play of the 2nd half Darrell Henderson dropped the ball on a toss behind the line of scrimmage and Arik Armstead who had a fantastic game, was at the right place at the right time and was able to recover the ball putting an end to any shot the Rams may have had.

The Niners defense has certainly become one of the most menacing defenses thus far this season, and the 49ers have found their formula to winning games with a good running game, and a quarterback that knows how to execute Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Despite everything the Niners defense is capable of, the best form of defense in today’s NFL is winning the time of possession game (SF – 38:52 LA – 21:08), keeping opposing offenses off the field. If San Francisco can replicate what they were able to do against the Rams, they’re bound to make some noise in the NFC on route to the postseason.

Photo Credit: The Mercury News | Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group