When all the chips are down and the game is on the line, no position group on the 49ers deserves more trust to get the job done than the defensive line. This is the group where the 49ers have, time and time again, prioritized their resources, and a game like Sunday was exactly why they chose to do so.
I’m going to focus on two plays that were made sequentially at the end of the fourth quarter to effectively ice this come-from-behind win for the 49ers on primetime.
First, let’s set the stage. The 49ers are up 19-16 with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. After a controversial punt that was downed inside the Chargers' one-yard line, Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles offense are now tasked with, at minimum, getting into field goal range to tie it up and send it to overtime.
The 49ers forced incompletions on the first two downs and then tackled tight end Tre’ McKitty short of the sticks to set up a 4th & 3 from the Chargers' own eight-yard line. With Brandon Staley opting to go for it inside his own ten, the 49ers had the chance to get a stop and effectively put an end to this game.
Enter Nick Bosa. The 49ers' superstar edge rusher dominated throughout this game, logging a sack to go with nine total pressures. The rep he put together on this fourth down was arguably his best of the evening.
Bosa went to an inside spin move, something he has made a habit of doing in high-leverage situations. Bosa sold the stem of an outside rush, planted, flipped his hips, and landed the ice pick. Across the board, this was a textbook rep and should be used as teaching tape for any defensive linemen working on their craft.
Sell the stem. Plant, flip the hips. Land the ice pick!— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) November 14, 2022
Textbook inside spin move by Nick Bosa on a critical fourth down late in the 4th quarter pic.twitter.com/jSuZjdA1Rr
With Bosa executing this spin move, he was able to move Justin Herbert off of his spot in the pocket, where he was immediately met by Jordan Willis, who delivered a crushing blow as Herbert let go of the football.
This led to an off-target throw on a ball intended for Josh Palmer, which ended the drive and gave the 49ers the ball inside the Chargers' 10-yard line with a three-point lead and less than two minutes remaining.
After Los Angeles was able to get a stop and hold the 49ers to a field goal attempt, they had one last-ditch effort to pull out an improbable win by driving 77 yards for a game-winning touchdown with no timeouts in under one minute.
A tall task by any stretch of the imagination, but one that is far from impossible with a quarterback like Herbert under center. Enter Charles Omenihu, who already had a strip sack earlier in this game, regularly making his presence felt in the battle for the line of scrimmage in this one.
On first and ten from the Chargers' 23-yard line, the 49ers' defense rolled out an overloaded front with Bosa in the 9-technique opposite the left tackle, while Omehinu, Kerry Hyder Jr., and Drake Jackson were on the opposite side.
Omenihu lined up over right guard Zion Johnson in the B gap. Johnson, the first-round pick in this year's draft for the Chargers, handled the initial portion of his rep with Omenihu admirably. Omenihu appeared to go to the scissor swipe move that he utilized earlier in the game on his strip sack of Herbert. It’s a move that Omenihu has had considerable success with all season and something Johnson and the Chargers' offensive line likely had prepared for.
What made this rep so special was Omenihu’s ability to adjust and counter on the fly. After the scissor swipe wasn’t getting it done, Omenihu pivoted to a long arm, one so devastating that it drove Johnson back and allowed Omenihu to get a hand on the arm of Herbert as he released a pass intended for Josh Palmer deep down the left sideline.
Due to Omenihu’s arm obstructing the arm of Herbert, an otherwise on-target pass was now turned into a fluttering duck, just begging to be snatched out of the sky by a 49ers defender. Talanoa Hufanga was able to get his hands on it and secure it for the final dagger in the Chargers' hopes of pulling out a last-minute miracle.
Great reaction by Hufanga, but a play that is not made possible without the relentless yet calculated pass rush from Omenihu that led to this errant throw.
Looked like Charles Omenihu started with the scissor swipe that he’s been beating opponents with all season— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) November 15, 2022
When that wasn’t there, Omenihu adjusted & countered with a devastating long arm that allowed him to get into the pocket and get a hand on Herbert as he released this ball pic.twitter.com/aHizW6eAkR
On back-to-back plays with a chance to put the game away, the 49ers' defensive line spearheaded an effort that resulted in two turnovers, one on downs and one on the interception. No matter how talented this team is from top to bottom, everything starts and stops with the way this group performs in the trenches.