The San Francisco 49ers defense had a heck of a day on Monday, shutting down Todd Gurley and the Los Angeles Rams offense (maybe I shouldn’t put “and” there for now). Gurley rushed 17 times for 47 yards. Every time he seemed to have a little space, defenders swarmed. He would get out to the edge at times, but even then, defenders were able to string him out to the sideline.
Pro Football Focus has a stat tracking yards after contact. Carlos Hyde has been a league leader in that, and his physicality is a huge attribute. Gurley had a strong performance in this category on Sunday, in spite of his lack of total yards. PFF tracked him (via CBS Sports) as having 52 yards after contact, good for eighth among NFL running backs.
Look at that number again. He rushed for 47 yards (25th this week), and had 52 yards after contact. That is kind of a crazy comparison. He broke tackles, but just could not get anywhere. I don’t know exactly how to break that down, but my thought is that the 49ers still managed to swarm, even after missed tackles. Yards after contact can factor in a loss because a player might be contacted 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, pick up three after that, and still finish with a loss of two on the play. The 49ers would seem to have been technically sound in backing each other up and making sure if Gurley slipped away from one defender, there was another one or more ready to stop him.
The 49ers face another tough ground game in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers. They had their share of struggles in Week 1, but this is a talented group. Jonathan Stewart is a strong No. 1, and they also have Cam Newton able to make plays with his feet. The 49ers defenders will have to be incredibly disciplined if they are going to contain this ground attack. We saw it in Week 1 against Todd Gurley and the Rams. Now we’ll see how it carries over in a road game on a short week.