The San Francisco 49ers have started the season with a 4-0 start, marked by strong offensive play, with the team scoring at least 30 points in every game and obtaining a total point differential of 125-58 through the stretch.
However, it hasn't only been an offensive showcase, as the 49ers defense has limited opponents to just 14.5 points per game, good for third in the NFL, despite some ups and downs.
How has head coach Kyle Shanahan seen the defense play out through the first stretch of the season?
Shanahan was candid, pointing out a couple of drives that led to unfavorable situations defensively, including two during the Cardinals game.
“Yeah, I think we’ve had some weak moments. I mean, from the first half with the Rams, I thought a couple drives. I thought there was two drives with the Cardinals in particular,” Shanahan said.
Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave reiterated the statement, sharing his belief that down plays were present, but also the fact that the team was able to lock down defensively and limit scoring chances.
“We had some down plays but we made some plays to win the game so it was an okay performance from us.”
However, the head coach has ultimately been pleased with the defense’s performance, with the expectations of continued growth throughout the season.
“But I mean, they’re still playing real good football. I’m real happy with them and we’re in Week 4 here, but we’re never satisfied. I expect us to keep getting better on defense, offense, and special teams.”
Through four weeks, the numbers certainly back up the 49ers, as they rank fifth in the NFL in yards allowed per game, as well as third in points allowed and yards allowed per play.
That point total is especially important, as the 49ers have proven to lock up opposing offenses and limit their scoring opportunities, regardless of whether they've given up chunk plays or not.
But, there have been certain difficulties where the team has acknowledged a need to shore up defensively, with third-down conversions being an area of focus.
The 49ers have allowed a 20th-best 41 percent of third-down conversions to occur, which has led to prolonged drives and the sixth-worst average time of possession this season.
Specifically focusing on last weekend, the 49ers allowed drives of 7, 10, 11, 11, 13, and 13 plays due to penalties or third down conversions.
Even if those opportunities didn't directly lead to points, that needs to be addressed in future weeks by defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.
But, for now, the 49ers have to be pleased by their superb offensive showing through four weeks, with their defense doing enough to minimize scoring chances for opponents.
Now, if they can shore up some of the defensive lapses, those sustained drives will be harder to find for opponents, leading to a reversal of drive length and time of possession.