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3 numbers to know: The 49ers run defense will face its biggest test yet

No Keaton Mitchell, but you know the Ravens will have some wrinkles, especially at quarterback.

Baltimore Ravens v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Monday night will be the first time since 1993 and only the second time two teams with 11 or more wins meet in Week 16 or later when the 11-3 San Francisco 49ers host the 11-3 Baltimore Ravens.

With the Seahawks beating the Eagles last week, the 49ers have a game in hand, holding the tiebreaker over Philadelphia with one game lead in the NFC. That means Monday against the Ravens isn’t a must-win but a would-like-to-win in what could be a precursor to a February rematch in Vegas.

It’ll be a star-studded affair at Levi’s Stadium for the nightcap on Christmas. These are three numbers to know before the two powerhouses meet:

30

Games. The Ravens offense has rushed for 100 or more yards in each of its last 30 games, the longest active streak in the league.

The 49ers and Lions are tied for the next longest streak at seven (7) games.

It’s 31 games in a row if you include Baltimore’s lone playoff game last season, but the last time Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense were held to under 100 rushing yards in a game was Week 1 of last season when the Jets held them to just 63.

While Baltimore’s offense will miss Keaton Mitchell and his 8.4 yards per attempt, Gus Edwards is more than capable of sharing the workload with Jackson. Edwards’ has rushed for a first down on 30.1 percent of his carries, the highest percentage among active running backs with a minimum of 500 attempts. And while Edwards is averaging a career-low 4.1 yards per rush, he’s more than made up for it with 11 rushing touchdowns, nearly doubling his previous career-high.

Oh, and probably not the best time to mention it, but both Arik Armstead (foot, knee) and Javon Hargrave (hamstring) didn’t practice on Thursday, and 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t have any information on their status.

That 49ers’ third-best run defense looked mighty vulnerable on Sunday in Arizona when James Conner, Emari Demercado, and the Cardinals’ running game rushed for 234 yards, the most San Francisco’s defense has allowed this season by a wide margin.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The 49ers missed tackle issue is rearing its head again, with the defense missing 42 tackles over the last three games after missing 16 in the three weeks out of the bye week.

Not to put too much stress on it, but the 49ers’ defense will need at least one of its interior defensive line duo if it hopes to stop the high-powered Baltimore running game.

10/10

Tackles for loss/passes defended. This season, Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton has ten tackles for loss and ten pass breakups, the first defensive back to do so since Tyrann Mathieu in 2015.

Not only did he become the first Ravens defensive back to accomplish the feat, but Hamilton became the 10th defensive back since 1999 - Eric Berry (2012, 2013), Adrian Wilson (2006, 2009), Antoine Winfield (2003, 2008), Ronde Barber (2010), Rodney Harrison (2000), and Mathieu - to have double-digit pass breakups and tackles for loss.

The second-year safety has blossomed in his sophomore year, playing well in both the run and pass game. Hamilton’s 84.1 PFF coverage grade ranks seventh for all safeties, while his 92.9 pass-rush grade is third-best at 92.9. His three sacks are tied for most by a defensive back in Ravens history with four others, although all three sacks came against Indianapolis back in Week 3.

Only sometimes do teams have to account for a safety in both the pass and run games. The 49ers have been stretching the field vertically recently, with Brock Purdyattempting 12 passes 20 yards or more downfield over the last four games while targeting the opposing teams’ free safety 15 times over the stretch.

Purdy will have to be wary of where Hamilton is on the field, whether at safety, in the box or the slot.

11

Games. Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike has recorded at least half of a sack in his last 11 games, tied for the longest such streak in NFL history.

And while Purdy is keeping an eye on where Hamilton lines up, he must also pay attention to No. 92 rushing up the middle. Madubuike’s strip-sack of Trevor Lawrence last week tied an NFL record with his 11th consecutive game with at least half a sack, matching Trey Hendrickson (2021) and Chris Jones (2018), although Javon Kearse went 12 games over two seasons (1999-200).

His 57 pressures rank third-most among defensive tackles behind only Aaron Donald (74) and Dexter Lawrence (59), while his 12 sacks lead the position. Only Nick Bosa has more quarterback hits (33) than Madubuike (30).

How Madubuike will create a unique matchup for the 49ers offensive line is where he lines up on the Baltimore defensive line. Of his 365 snaps on the line:

  • 195 have been taken at left defensive tackle
  • 175 at right defensive tackle
  • 133 at left end
  • 81 at right end

The entirety of the 49ers’ defensive line should be put on notice of Madubuike, who can essentially pick where he wants to attack. There are specific spots that are of concern on the 49ers’ offensive line, but as a unit, it’s been solid, and Purdy has been able to kept upright. Madebuike’s versatility will be a challenge, but San Francisco’s offense has more or less conquered every challenge thrown its way this season.