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Instant Reaction: Defense saves the day again

With the season on the line, Saleh’s boys shut down the Rams

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Whether you look at the season as a whole or go week to week, nothing in 2020 has gone the way most people thought it was going to go. The 49ers are in the middle of one of the most disappointing seasons since the turn of the century. Their starting quarterback likely wouldn’t be good enough to make another roster in the league. They find out a day before the game that they aren’t going to be able to see their families for maybe the entire month of December. And they’re playing a division rival who is battling the Seahawks for control of the NFC West.

So what happens?

As one former coach famously put it, the 49ers went out and hit people in the mouth. Despite having every reason to just pack it in for this year, Robert Saleh and Kyle Shanahan’s defense sacked Jared Goff twice, forced four turnovers, and scored a touchdown in a 23-20 win over LA.

Faint as they may be, the 49ers’ playoff hopes still flicker because the defense balled out and Deebo Samuel carried the offense (and several Rams tacklers) on his shoulders. This game was a perfect example of how much Kyle Shanahan can do when just a fraction of his roster is healthy. Deebo and Mostert were the only threats to the Rams defense, and yet Samuel still put up 11 catches and 133 yards - including crucial catches when the 49ers were driving for their game-winning field goal.

If the stars ever align and we get to see Deebo with Brandon Aiyuk on the other side, Kittle over the middle, Mostert in the backfield, and competent QB play, the rest of the NFC should be nervous.

Hear more analysis of this win in the Instant Reaction podcast with myself and Levin Black, which is waiting for you right here on this page, and wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re in a good mood, give us a five star rating and a review on iTunes. We’ll say nice things about you, we promise.