The San Francisco 49ers pass rush finally broke through last week against the Oakland Raiders, taking down Derek Carr seven times. Cassius Marsh led the way with 2.5 sacks, Dekoda Watson had 1.5 sacks in his return from injured reserve, and Solomon Thomas, Ronald Blair, and DeForest Buckner each had a sack. The 49ers defense dominated the game primarily due to the considerable pass rush.
Week 10 brings a matchup with the New York Giants that presents a huge opportunity for the pass rush to find more success. Eli Manning has been sacked a league-high 31 times. Football Outsiders ranks the team’s adjusted sack rate 26th in the league. The Giants rank eighth worst with an 8.9 percent sacks-per-dropback ratio.
The 49ers enter this week tied for seventh in the NFL with 24 sacks. They rank eighth in Football Outsiders adjusted sack rate statistic. They ranked fairly well even before their seven sack performance, but they jumped with that effort.
Can they build on it against the Giants? I asked Big Blue View editor Ed Valentine his thoughts on the Giants pass protection. At times it seems like Eli Manning works his way into sacks, but analytics suggest the Giants offensive line is pretty bad as well. Pro Football Focus tracks time in pocket stats, and Manning has the 11th shortest average time to throw, the seventh fastest time to getting sacked, and eighth shortest average time in the pocket.
I asked Ed what explains Manning leading the NFL in sacks.
The answer is “both.” The offensive line is awful. GM Dave Gettleman said on the day he was hired he knew he had to fix it. There are new starters at every position, and newly-acquired Jamon Brown might start Monday night. The line, though, is still atrocious. There are too many times when it is a jail break to the quarterback. Also, even with Barkley the Giants are 31st in rushing efficiency. He gets no help from the line and does everything on his own.
Still, Manning is also responsible for some of the sacks. How many I really don’t know, but there are two issues. First is his lack of mobility. Second, after years and years of playing behind bad offensive lines he sees the rush too quickly, sometimes before it’s there, and either dumps the ball off too quickly or gets indecisive, holds the ball and takes sacks. Plain and simple it is absolutely apparent he doesn’t trust his blocking.
The Giants are a mess right now, but their passing attack remains dangerous with Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard regular threats on the outside and Saquon Barkley among the best pass-catching running backs in the league. OBJ and Shepard will be a particularly difficult task for the 49ers secondary, and so the key will be getting consistent pressure on Manning. If the pass rush can perform similarly to what we saw last week against Oakland, the 49ers will be in a strong position to win this game.