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Top 10 most impressive performances from 22’: #7 Talanoa Hufanga vs. the Bears

Hufanga’s 2022 season got off to a hot start despite the conditions

San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Today focuses on a budding star in the 49ers’ secondary.

As a refresher, I mainly considered how each performance held up with the eye test. After going back and watching the game film, was it as impressive now as it was at the time?

I also weighed the game’s impact, meaning the stakes of each contest played a role in how these rankings ultimately panned out, and finally, good old-fashioned statistics. I also emphasized the objective numbers a player posted in their respective games.

Talanoa Hufanga @ Chicago Week 1

After being selected in the fifth round of the 2021 draft, Talanoa Hufanga had a meteoric rise culminating in a first team All-Pro nod in his second season in the NFL. He immediately set the tone for this breakout campaign with a standout performance in the season opener in Chicago.

Hufanga left his mark all over the rain-soaked turf at Soldier Field, giving us a glimpse into the greatness that would unfold in the coming weeks. He did it all in this game, registering a team-high 11 tackles to go along with six STOPS.

A “STOP” is defined as “an offensive gain on first down that is kept to less than 40 percent of the line to gain, less than 50 percent of the line to gain on second down, and any third- or fourth-down play kept without a first down or touchdown.”

While he was tremendous near the line of scrimmage in this one, what set this performance apart was what he could do in coverage as well. Hufanga was only targeted three times in this game on 23 coverage snaps, allowing just one reception for three yards.

He also notched an interception in this one, which I broke down in the video attached below. As the ‘robber’ in a three-buzz coverage, Hufanga does a tremendous job of baiting the quarterback into a throw over the middle before jumping the route for the pick.

One of Hufanga’s greatest strengths as a football player is his ability to quickly diagnose and react to what is happening in front of him. He is one of those rare athletes who sees the game at a slower speed than those around him.

Pair that with his incredible instincts and natural feel for the game, you get a player who has arguably the fastest trigger in the league. In a short span, Hufanga has, at the very least, earned a spot in the discussion among the league’s elite in that regard.

I put together a few cut-ups to highlight this, starting with a 1st & 10 from the Chicago 25-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Hufanga explodes into the backfield to trip up Bears running back David Montgomery for a two-yard loss:

In this clip, Hufanga bursts into the A gap to stonewall the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage for no gain:

He also made plays in the open field that were pivotal. Hufanga prevents a massive gain for the Bears’ offense in this clip with an open-field tackle. He is left one-on-one with Khalil Herbert, with the running back holding an edge, running downhill directly toward a stationary Hufanga. Then, he absorbs contact and never gives up on the play, grabbing onto Herbert’s leg to bring him down:

He made the fundamentally sound plays look routine in this one as well, setting the edge to limit this carry to just a single yard:

Perhaps no play better exemplifies how Hufanga disrupted Chicago’s run game than this tackle for loss on Montgomery in the third quarter. It had everything. The speed, the physicality, and most importantly, the lightning-quick trigger:

There was also tremendous maturity on display for such a young player thrust into a prominent role. Following a personal foul penalty that gifted the Bears 15 yards and a fresh set of downs, they faced a 1st & 10 from their 30-yard line.

Hufanga immediately demolishes any momentum Chicago had been building by sniffing out this screen and tackling Herbert in the backfield for a two-yard loss:

Here were Hufanga’s final statistics from that game:

11 tackles



1 interception

3 receiving yards allowed

2.8 passer rating when targeted

The nod goes to the season opener that laid the foundation for a prolific season with a handful of awe-inspiring performances.