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49ers in Five: Why is Talanoa Hufanga so good?

“He’s able to not just be a robot out there.”

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

As good as the defense played on Monday night, it wasn’t until Talanoa Hufanga picked off Matthew Stafford and took it to the house that the game was truly out of reach. You probably remember the play quite well, but what the hell, let’s take another look at it.

Hufanga later said that he noticed something different about his man’s release on the play that made him jump the screen pass. “You can smell a rat when it comes to those things,” he said after the game. Yesterday Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans was asked what makes Talanoa such a good player.

“I talk every week about [Hufanga] and the questions that come up about him. It’s always about the preparation throughout the week. And that’s where he sets himself apart and I think I’ve said it before and you see it right there on that particular play. He’s able to not just be a robot out there. We want our guys to be football players and instinctually, when you’re able to see something and trigger on it, that’s what makes you a special player.

Some guys can see something, but it’s also, oh, I have to stick to my rules and just be a robot. Huf is not a robot on the field. That’s what allows him to stick out. That’s what allows him to make the plays he’s made. That’s what allowed him to be like one of the best safeties in the league right now, because of his instincts. And he’s not scared to go make a play when it calls for him to go make a play.”

Whether it’s in the box or out on coverage, Hufanga’s incredible instincts have helped him become the biggest surprise of the year for the 49ers by far, and the arrow is only pointing up for him this season.

Hear more about this and other stories in today’s 49ers in Five podcast. Our five-minute daily update gives you the latest news, best audio clips, and everything else you need to know about the team. Subscribe to the Niners Nation Podcast Network today so you don’t miss an episode!