Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 337 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and a 57% success rate, with 41% of his 45 attempts resulting in first downs. For reference, Stafford’s total EPA was 16.5 for the game compared to Jimmy Garoppolo’s was 6.2.
Throughout the season, the 49ers secondary outperformed expectations, but Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Odell Beckham Jr. were too much to handle at the game's biggest stages.
PFF ranked each secondary in the NFL, and the 49ers came in at 16th, which is league average:
CB: Charvarius Ward
CB: Emmanuel Moseley
NCB: Jason Verrett
S: Jimmie Ward
While this is only a ranking of secondaries, it should be noted that the 49ers’ pass defense as a whole should be expected to outperform this ranking thanks to Fred Warner and the NFL’s best group of cover linebackers. The X-factor here once again is Jason Verrett’s health. In the two seasons he was able to play 500-plus snaps in his NFL career, he earned coverage grades of 90.9 (2015) and 76.1 (2020).
If you’re a bit skeptical about a ranking with no description of any of the players in the Niners secondary, you’re not the only one. The rankings as a whole seem off, and an All-Pro agrees:
As for San Francisco, the hope is that Talanoa Hufanga will take a leap in Year 2. If Hufanga brings the same level of toughness, sound play, and awareness as incumbent starter Jaquiski Tartt, the safety position is in great shape.
The hope is that Charvarius Ward ascends into a top-10 cornerback. Ward had impressive numbers and competed every week as he followed No. 1 wideouts with the Chiefs last year. That’ll allow Emmanuel Moseley, who’s in a contract year, to guard the opposing team’s No. 2 wide receiver.
Anything the team gets out of Jason Verrett or one of the cornerbacks they drafted in the previous two seasons should be viewed as icing on the cake. Verrett is 31 and coming off a season-ending injury, while the others have little to no NFL experience.
Renner is spot on about the Niners having the best coverage linebackers in the NFL, and I’m not sure it’s close. Of course, everyone knows about Fred Warner. Dre Greenlaw makes splash plays, and they’ll learn about Azeez Al-Shaair soon enough.
A loaded pass rush takes the pressure off the back-seven. But, as we learned in the NFC Championship and Super Bowl LIV, you need your secondary to make plays. We’ll find out if the 49ers group can make enough when it matters the most in 2022.