We will hear plenty over the next week about Nick Mullens’ performance in the San Francisco 49ers win over the Oakland Raiders. But beyond his performance, the pass rush was a revelation — for at least one game — and it was critical to the 49ers victory.
The 49ers have struggled to get any kind of pressure off the edge. Cassius Marsh occasionally has gotten through, but it’s been an inconsistent unit. On Thursday, the unit was huge in Dekoda Watson’s return from injured reserve. Marsh finished the game with six pressures and 2.5 sacks, while Watson had six pressures and 1.5 sacks. The 49ers as a whole sacked Carr seven times and got 26 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
The 49ers had averaged a little under 18 pressures per game entering Week 9. The unit has been able to harass quarterbacks, but they have struggled mightily in closing the deal. That was not the case this week, even against a Raiders offensive line that has been shaky but not atrocious. Entering the game, Football Outsiders ranked the Raiders 16th in adjusted sack rate. That’s certainly not great, but it’s not exactly atrocious.
Dekoda Watson has never been a big pass rush guy. He entered the game with four career sacks, and has been more a special teams player than regular defensive option. I’m not expecting a massive close to the season, but having a guy with fresh legs might be worth noting. Someone mentioned that on Twitter last night, and it makes some sense. The Raiders were playing on a short week, and Watson has been rehabbing the first eight weeks of the season. Maybe these next couple weeks he has an edge over some of the offensive linemen he’s facing.
We’ll break down the pass rush in more detail in the coming days, but suffice to say, it was great seeing at least one week of positive momentum for the unit. And there might be some room to build on it next week against the New York Giants. Football Outsiders ranks them 25th in adjusted sack rate, and Eli Manning just seems comfortable giving up on plays and falling into a sack. The pass rush could get a chance to eat once again in nine days.