We haven’t given the 49ers defense enough credit for putting the clamps on a Seahawks offense with a couple of dangerous weapons. Rashaad Penny averaged 5.0 yards per carry in Week 1. That figure was cut in half in Week 2.
From the box score to the flow of the game, San Francisco dominated. Last week, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said he felt is unit could’ve done a better job of finishing the game. Monday, I asked head coach Kyle Shanahan what goes through his mind when he watches the defense play after not allowing a touchdown:
“My favorite things about this game is that I thought it was similar to Chicago because I thought we were close to having a dominant performance versus Chicago. But every time they got one good play, whether it was from a penalty or an off-schedule play, we didn’t really make the plays after that to recover.”
An unnecessary facemask from Dre Greenlaw gifted Chicago a first down, which led to Justin Fields scrambling and finding Dante Pettis for a 51-yard touchdown.
On the next drive, Azeez Al-Shaair’s unnecessary roughness gifted Chicago another first down. When the defense forced Chicago into 3rd & 2, another coverage bust led to a touchdown.
Finally, after a Trey Lance interception, a defensive holding on 2nd & 11 put Chicago inside of the 5-yard line, which all but iced the game.
Shanahan acknowledged, “no matter how good you play, you’re still going to give up some stuff.” It’s the NFL. Every team has good players. Shanahan said his message is, “you always try to say it doesn’t count until they cross the goal line.”
From there, the Niners' head coach rattled off a sequence of plays where the defense responded, unlike the week before:
“I think it was like play 15, or 13, they got their first explosive hitting Lockett outside the numbers on a little play-action play, and then right after that, the next play, I think Greenlaw had a TFL in the flat, took care of it, made it a 2nd & 10, and then the play after that, Huf undercut and tipped it and got a pick. So, we responded with a huge turnover after a play.”
So much going on during this INT. Seahawks go empty. Niners bluff like they’re blitzing but end up having 8 in coverage. Ridgeway blows the play up by bull-rushing the center into Geno.— KP (@KP_Show) September 19, 2022
Bosa in cvg.
Hufanga plays a perfect catch/trail technique on Lockett & undercuts the throw. pic.twitter.com/9XNHAlvCFE
Hufanga’s technique in the play above is flawless.
Here’s Shanahan sharing another example:
“Later in the day, they got their one off-schedule play where the quarterback broke the pocket, we ended up dropping a guy and chasing him, similar to the Chicago game and he hit Lockett across the field, that got them in the red zone, and then I love that we recovered with a pick there on the goal line, on the trick play by [CB Charvarius Ward] Mooney.”
Seattle ran a couple of trick plays. Neither worked. That’s what you do when you know you can’t line up and move the ball. The Seahawks drafted a running back in the first round recently, then in the second round last year, and used their third-string running back to throw a pass in the end zone. Remember ESPN’s segment called, “Come on, man!” They would’ve had a field day with that decision.
It came down to making a play:
“So, it’s things like that where the standard of how we play, there were some good things with that in Chicago, but it didn’t matter, we still gave up three touchdowns. I saw the similar stuff yesterday, but the defense tightened up and when there was a good play by their team, we just made a better play the following three downs.”
What a difference a few plays can make. Had Chicago not converted two plays that took more than seven seconds, we might be talking about a 2-0 team. Then again, what if the Seahawks score on that drive, which would’ve made it 13-7, and put the pressure back on the 49ers' offense?
You can play the what-if game until you’re blue in the face. All that matters is the defense made the plays when they needed to.