A year and a month ago I wrote a post titled 49ers DE Ray McDonald: Impact Player. I felt it was fitting to utilize the title again in a sense in light one of the positives to come out of yesterday's game. Had it not been for the defense falling apart at the end of the game and David Carr struggling to complete a pass, Ray McDonald's play yesterday would have been the game-saver. Instead things feel apart and his interception return for a touchdown was wasted.
Ray McDonald's career began slowly due to various injuries that plagued him in college and through his first two seasons in the NFL. However, he started to break through a bit in 2009 as he had a variety of key plays for the team. Over the course of sixteen games, Ray McDonald garnered three sacks, blocked a field goal and an extra point, and had a pair of fumble recoveries. He returned one fumble for a touchdown and saw Nate Clements run his field goal block back for a touchdown.
Things had gone fairly quietly for McDonald up until his interception run back for a touchdown today. He has brought some pressure on occasion but has yet to record a sack. He still is making some plays, but like much of the defense, the turnovers are not coming quite as frequently. Part of the turnover issue is questionable pass rush at times, but also a lack of forced fumbles. That was one area the 49ers excelled at last year, and things just aren't breaking their way this year. There is certainly some skill in forcing fumbles, but many forced fumbles can have as much to do with luck as anything else. And when you're team isn't getting lucky in the overall sense, it shouldn't be a surprise to see a lack of luck in the fumble department.
Ray McDonald enters free agency this year and it will be interesting to see what kind of attention he garners. He's really a pass rush specialist at this point, which I certainly wouldn't complain about if he could get some more pressure on the QB. I actually hope the 49ers can find a way to bring him back, but we'll see what kind of change we see this offseason.