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The fastest team in the league was no match for Dre Greenlaw

Greenlaw had his best performance of the season.

Miami Dolphins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

When you’re watching a team as talented as the 49ers are on a regular basis, the extraordinary often gets lost in the mix due to how routine the standout players on the team make it look.

Whether it’s Fred Warner getting left on an island in coverage against a team's number one option, or Trent Williams doing things no other offensive linemen have done on a football field, this loaded 49ers roster gives us a glimpse into the spectacular week after week.

In their Week 13 win over the Dolphins, the player who most embodied this subtle and overlooked greatness was linebacker Dre Greenlaw.

For starters, I think this was the best game I’ve ever seen Greenlaw play in a 49ers uniform. Greenlaw finished the game with a team-leading seven tackles, without a single missed tackle, as well as a game-defining pass breakup as the cherry on top.

Greenlaw is a converted safety, and the history he has in the defensive backfield is evident when you watch the way he moves in space. He has always been an above-average athlete at the linebacker position during his time with the 49ers.

But what made this performance so special was the opponent he was going up against and how he was able to slow down one of the most explosive skill position groups that has ever been assembled.

The 2022 Miami Dolphins could be mistaken for an Olympic track by the unbeknown observer, given the way they move in space. Tyreek Hill might be the fastest player to ever play the sport, and second-year standout Jaylen Waddle is a legitimate 4.3 guy who is as fast as anyone in the open field in the NFL.

Miami also boasts a running back the 49ers are all too familiar with in Raheem Mostert, who also happens to be one of the more fleet of foot players to ever tote a football at the highest level.

The bevy of weapons at Mike Mcdaniel's disposal is a daunting task for any defense they face. Many extremely talented players have ended up looking silly trying to contain the powder keg that is a Dolphins offense that has the ability to erupt at any moment.

Greenlaw not only took this challenge head-on, but he also persevered and played what I would argue was the best game of his NFL career. That daunting speed Miami brought to the table was of no concern to Greenlaw, as he was ready to show the Dolphins he had burners of his own.

Take a look at this play in the fourth quarter. Greenlaw is going to be left in space on a drag route with Hill, who again is arguably the fastest player to ever step on an NFL field. Watch how Greenlaw digs deep and finds a second gear to run with Hill while also remaining disciplined in the angle he took to bring down one of the most elusive players the sport has ever seen in the open field.

Greenlaw flashed this combination of acceleration with a disciplined path to the ball carrier on numerous occasions in this game, including this run stop on his former teammate.

While the speed is there, the physicality is as well. Greenlaw can run with the best of them and drop the hammer at a moment's notice, but what really separates his ability is the fire and tenacity that he plays with. There is absolutely no quit in this guy. He gives 110 percent from the moment the ball is snapped until the final whistle blows.

In the fourth quarter on Sunday, Miami faced a 4th & 2 in San Francisco territory, down six points with time fading rapidly. The game wouldn’t be decided on this one play, but if the 49ers were able to get a stop here, their chances of hanging on to win would increase exponentially.

The Dolphins tried throwing an out toward their sideline targeted for tight end Mike Gesicki, and guess who happened to be the nearest 49ers defender? That’s right, on a day when Greenlaw shined from start to finish, he had one last addition to complete the masterpiece he had just put together.

Greenlaw never allowed Gesicki to maintain possession of the football, fighting all the way through to the ground and forcing an incompletion that all but took the winds completely out of the Dolphins' sails.

Greenlaw is affectionately known as “Big Play Dre,” and sequences like that are a good example of why that nickname is fitting and well deserved. At the end of the day, Greenlaw is someone who just oozes “football guy” or whatever other cliche you want to use to fill in the blank.

Having a player with the skill set Greenlaw possesses is something every team in the NFL is seeking these days, given the way that the sport has evolved. A big, fast linebacker who can move in space and be an asset in coverage? Sign me up.

But don’t let the modern skill set fool you. Greenlaw is as much of a throwback football player as you’ll find anywhere these days. That burning passion and desire to obliterate his opponent on every snap is a lost art these days. I, for one, appreciate watching this gifted linebacker who plays every game like he is ready to run through a wall at a moment's notice.