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49ers defensive expertise displayed in heartbreaking loss

Four stops on 3rd down by the 49er defense

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans led the team to force nine three-and-outs and ten punts in a primetime matchup against the Denver Broncos.

Ryans tried to carry Jimmy Garoppolo’s baggage to victory, but there is only so much the defense could’ve done. The Niners’ defense needs to overperform week in and week out to give the team any real chance at success. Luckily, the defense is playing like the best in the league, so I would not put it past them. Here are four defensive stops on third down that will brighten your thoughts after the loss.

Moseley sets the tone for Denver's first possession

San Francisco’s defense played with violent passion all game. Emmanuel Moseley let Jerry Jeudy know who he is with a big hit on Denver’s first offensive possession. The Niners were in Cover 2, and Moseley recognized the corner route and redirected the safety before barreling downhill for the stop. Tackling has to be an ongoing focus for the secondary to continue performing at a high level.

Ryans aggressiveness prevails

Last year, we saw Ryans get aggressive on third down regardless of who was in the secondary. This trend continued on Denver’s third offensive possession. The defense was in Cover 1 with Talanoa Hufanga as the deep post player. Russell Wilson sent Jeudy in motion, likely to show if the defense is in man coverage or not, in order to free Jeudy up. Ryans blitzed Warner, who bluffed taking a gap to loop around the edge. Kerry Hyder got a good push that helped the interior offensive line collapse. Moseley continued his strong year by keeping Jeudy in a strait jacket above.

Drake Jackson gets home for the sack

It’s no secret that defensive linemen are near the top of San Francisco’s positional values. Ryans dialed up a fire zone blitz on 3rd & 16 at the end of the second quarter, and everyone on the defensive line pushed the pocket. He gave a similar aggressive man blitz look that we saw in the previous play. Warner bailed to coverage as Deommodore Lenoir came off the edge unblocked, which freed up rookie Drake Jackson. Fire zones usually confuse the quarterback, but the offensive line also got mixed up. Making defensive looks appear the same is essential for elite defenses.

Russell Wilson’s scramble nullified

If you recall the prior twenty Wilson-49ers matchups, you will know that Wilson usually breaks off a long scramble where he catches the defense napping. Dre Greenlaw stopped Wilson’s scramble one yard shy of a first down early in the fourth. The recently extended Greenlaw has thankfully improved his level of play after regressing slightly last year. He has been stout against the run, floats to receivers in zone coverage, and plays with his head on fire. This stop was uplifting because it gave the 49ers’ offense a chance to put the game away.