clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

3 overreactions from Week 4: Is the defense overrated?

Plus, the potential of the 49ers having two players battle for MVP, and a top-5 receiver on the roster

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The 49ers had another convincing win on Sunday, as they won by double-digits over the Cardinals. Arizona trimmed the lead to four, but San Francisco’s 14-0 run to end the game put their divisional opponent away once and for all.

Let’s go over a few overreactions from Sunday’s game.

Brandon Aiyuk is a top-5 receiver

Aiyuk missed Week 3, and the Niners offense didn’t miss a beat. That may say more about New York’s defense than Aiyuk’s overall impact. Despite missing a game, Aiyuk leads the league in yards per route run, has the highest receiving grade per PFF, and has 12 receptions over 20 yards, which is fifth in the NFL.

The only reason Aiyuk is outside of the top-10 in receiving yards is because he missed a game. He’s 11th. But counting stats rarely tell the full story. Aiyuk’s converting his contested targets, winning down the field 1-on-1, and has caught all but three of the passes thrown in his direction.

If you ignore the past and focus on how wideouts look this year, there’s a short list of players you’d put above Aiyuk. Justin Jefferson? Tyreek Hill? Stefon Diggs? A.J. Brown? That’s where the list ends.

The 49ers defense is overrated

The 49ers are giving up 14.5 points per game through four games. You can count on one hand for how many “bad” drives the defense has allowed. Yet, that unit is still trying to find its groove.

There was the two-minute drill toward the end of the first half against Pittsburgh. Then, the same scenario versus the Cardinals. And how could we forget the first half of the Rams game? All in all, the Niners are leaning into the bend but don’t break a little too much.

A team with the collection of talent the 49ers possess defensively shouldn’t rank 20th in success rate after a month when three of the quarterbacks that you’ve played are Kenny Pickett, Daniel Jones, and Josh Dobbs.

Dobbs had a couple of misses that saved the Niners. Even with those, Arizona didn’t struggle to move the ball. They averaged 5.4 yards per play, Dobbs was only sacked once, and converted 8-of-15 third downs and 2-of-3 fourth downs. Nine penalties by Arizona aided the defense, or else the scoreboard would have looked a little different.

So, what’s the issue? The 49ers pressured Dobbs on 38 percent of his dropbacks. But he only put the ball in harm’s way once — the pass Fred Warner couldn’t haul in. It felt like there were multiple series when the pass rush was non-existent. The main issue likely falls on the cornerback play.

Ambry Thomas is not the answer. He was targeted three times on one drive, and gave up 44 yards. To me, the 16-yard completion and the end of the half was on Thomas, too. His situational awareness or feel for what the receiver is going to do against him isn’t there.

Deommodore Lenoir didn’t give up a lot of yards, nor did Charvarius Ward, but Ward was flagged for a (ticky-tack) pass interference while Lenoir allowed all five of his targets to be completed. Then, Isaiah Oliver also gave up a couple of first down receptions.

The one reason to be concerned is that the 49ers haven’t run into a CeeDee Lamb or Amari Cooper yet. What happens when they do?

The 49ers will finish with two players in the top-5 of MVP voting

Has that ever been done? As of today, Brock Purdy has the seventh-best odds to win the MVP while Christian McCaffrey is ninth. McCaffrey finished with 177 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. There isn’t much to say about him that already hasn’t been said.

McCaffrey has 123 more rushing yards than the player in second place. He has PFF’s highest receiving grade among all running backs. Only Josh Jacobs has more receiving yards. Eleven of McCaffrey’s 18 receptions have resulted in a first down. I still think Kyle Shanahan is saving some of the plays he cooked up for McCaffrey in the passing game for opponents like the next two San Francisco will face.

Purdy isn’t going to go 20-for-21 with a 13.5 yards per attempt again, but his production has been consistent. When’s the last time Shanahan had a quarterback who was in the top-10 for passing yards four games into the season?

Through four games in 2019, Jimmy Garoppolo had 739 passing yards. Matt Ryan was 16th in 2017, but first in 2016 when the Falcons made the Super Bowl. So, that’s the answer. 2016.

Purdy has 1,019 passing yards, with five touchdowns to zero interceptions and a 72.3 percent completion rate. Forty-nine percent of his attempts have resulted in a first down, and no quarterback has a higher passer rating one month into the season.

We’ll see how the numbers look another month from now with the difficulty of opponent going up a couple of notches, but you can only play who is on the schedule.