We’re entrenched with everything the 49ers do. During Kyle Shanahan’s tenure, it hasn’t been easy to look away from a Niner team that finds a way to grab headlines on a weekly basis. But, this season, it’s been for the better.
You can no longer say Nick Bosa isn’t getting the pub he deserves, as the 49ers' star edge rusher has all but locked up the Defensive Player of the Year award. The offense is rolling and has been since Christian McCaffrey arrived — no matter who is under center.
San Francisco clinched the NFC West with a few weeks to spare in the regular season and still has an outside chance of earning the #1 seed. Of course, we’re putting the cart before the horse here, but the 49ers, undoubtedly, have one of if not the best chances to hoist the Lombardi trophy this season.
Color me obsessed with this defense. DeMeco Ryans is a gem, and his unit has true difference-makers at all three levels. Nick Bosa’s getting most of the attention, and understandably so: Having just wrecked another game with seven tackles, four QB hits, two sacks, two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery in the 37-20 win over Washington, Bosa is closing in on Defensive Player of the Year honors. As an Associated Press voter, he’s my current pick for the award, with a league-best 17.5 sacks, including 11.5 in the last nine games. San Francisco also boasts an additional Pro Bowler at the second (Fred Warner) and third level (Talanoa Hufanga). And I haven’t even mentioned LB Dre Greenlaw, S Jimmie Ward, CB Charvarius Ward — three all-star-caliber studs in their own right — or the waves of additional disruptors along Kris Kocurek’s defensive line. This is a true championship defense, which is why the Niners remain squarely in the title hunt despite being down to their third-string quarterback.
That said, the third-string quarterback deserves plenty of praise; the last pick of the 2022 NFL Draft has been anything but irrelevant. Taking over for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo in the second drive of the Week 13 bout against Miami, Brock Purdy deftly guided San Francisco to a 33-17 win with a pair of touchdown passes. Since then, he’s been even better, going 3-0 with sparkling statistics across the board: 70 percent completions, 6:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 121.4 passer rating. The freshly minted 23-year-old sure looks like he belongs, eh? Obviously, Purdy greatly benefits from having an elite play-caller in Kyle Shanahan and a smorgasbord of game-changing weapons at his disposal. If Deebo Samuel returns with fresh (and healthy) legs for the postseason run? Watch out.
You have to start with the defense. For San Francisco to make a Super Bowl run, they’ll have to take down some of the best offenses in the league on the way. There’s a plausible scenario where the 49ers' path consists of the Packers/Lions, Vikings, Eagles/Cowboys, and whichever AFC team makes the Super Bowl — likely Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen.
Perhaps the craziest part is when you think about how DeMeco Ryans and the defense have answered the bell during the past month and a half, it’s not a stretch that they’d still be the best unit on the field in every game of the playoffs.
A rational person would agree that the 49ers' defense is the driving force for this season’s success. Look no further than last week against Washington. The offense lived on the Commanders’ side of the field, thanks to turnovers and stops by the Niners' defense.
There is still a fair share of fans waiting for Brock Purdy to make the dreaded rookie mistake. For him to do what all first-year players do at some point. Those plays have already taken place. Yet, the 49ers keep winning, despite playing playoff teams along the way.
Purdy’s confidence should only grow during the final two games of the regular season. And once the team gets Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell back in the fold, they’ll only become more potent.
Do you agree that the 49ers have the best chance to come out of the NFC?