Charles Omenihu proved invaluable to the 49ers after being acquired on trade deadline day midway through the 2021 season. During his year-and-a-half stint with the team, he recorded an eye-popping 13.3 percent pressure rate. That was higher than every single 49ers defender except for Nick Bosa.
What made him so special on his run with the 49ers was the versatility he provided by being able to line up anywhere on the defensive front. Following the departure of Arden Key last year, Omenihu found his stride by slotting into an interior pass-rushing role in 2022.
He terrorized guards and centers all season long to the tune of 62 pressures, which ranked second among all 49ers defenders. He had ten games with three or more pressures and recorded at least one pressure in all twenty games he appeared in during the 2022 season.
There were a handful of strong performances by Omenihu to choose from that stood out statistically. However, when weighing the game’s impact and the effect he had on the overall outcome, one shined above the rest
Wild Card Round vs Seattle
Few games from last season could match the anticipation that led up to this showdown between two hated rivals. After being swept by the 49ers during the regular season for the first time in over a decade, the Seahawks had an opportunity to render all of it useless with a playoff upset at Levi’s Stadium.
Despite the skill gap between these two squads, if any team were going to come into Santa Clara and hand the 49ers a shocking defeat, it would be the one that has been a thorn in their side for far too long.
Everything changes in a winner take all game, and Pete Carroll brought his team down to the Bay Area, ready to face off with the Goliath that awaited them. For a large portion of this game, they played like a team poised to pull off the upset of the year.
Seattle battled through a gritty first half before heading into the locker room with the lead at the break. One of the primary reasons the Seahawks were able to keep this game so close came directly from their ability to neutralize the Defensive Player of the Year.
This game would go down as the first, and only in Bosa’s NFL career where he failed to register a single pressure. For the first time all season, he looked mortal. While you have to tip your cap to Seattle for finding a way to do what no other team had been able to up to that point, there was still a football game to be won.
If the 49ers were going to have any hope of extending their season for another week, someone else on this defensive line would have to step up and provide the production that Bosa could not in this game.
For that reason, this Omenihu performance earns the honor of ranking where it does on this list. When the chips were down and the 49ers needed a hero, he was the one who delivered in the biggest possible way.
While there is one specific play that will weigh heavily in all of this, his stats for the game overall were also noteworthy. He recorded a team-leading five pressures with two sacks, two STOPS, and a forced fumble.
The 49ers held a 23-17 lead late in the third quarter, and Seattle marched deep into San Francisco territory with a chance to regain the lead. Facing a third down from the 49ers 19-yard line, Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith dropped back to pass, looking to move the chains.
The 49ers’ defense came out in an overload front, with three defensive linemen over the left side of the Seattle offensive line. Omenihu was shaded over the inside shoulder of the left guard as a 2i.
Omenihu runs a loop action from his interior spot to get around the right side of the Seahawks’s offensive line. With Smith stepping up in the pocket, Omenihu utilized his 85 1/2-inch wingspan to get his hand on the football and poke it free from the grasp of the Seahawks quarterback.
Bosa was able to pounce on the loose ball, securing a 49ers turnover that immediately halted any chance Seattle had at regaining the momentum in this game. Not only did it end this drive, it effectively doused the flames of any remaining hope Seattle had of pulling off this upset.
Charles Omenihu’s versatility to kick inside on passing downs has been invaluable to the 49ers this season— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) January 17, 2023
Omenihu is a 2i on the overload side of this front, and is going get home on this loop around the RT and get a key forced fumble that was the defining play in this game pic.twitter.com/dvWvOsRXQJ
That play marked the last time the Seahawks' offense had possession of the ball with a one-score deficit. It was the turning point in a game that quickly changed from a nail-biter to a blowout.
For good measure, Omenihu logged another sack late in the fourth quarter. He beats Seahawks right tackle Abraham Lucas with a textbook inside scissor swipe:
Simultaneous win by Jordan Willis and Charles Omenihu off the edge from each side results in the latter’s second sack of the game— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) January 17, 2023
Willis beats Charles Cross with a textbook ‘chop’ move and Omenihu beats Abe Lucas with an inside scissor swipe pic.twitter.com/nagXzeAatw
For a team that could lean on a superstar like Bosa on so many occasions, it’s hard to quantify just how valuable this performance was from Omenihu.
There is no blueprint for how the 49ers are supposed to win games without Bosa pressuring the opposing quarterback because it had never happened before this game. Staring in the face of adversity as the entire team adapted to this new unknown, Omenihu seized control and was the catalyst behind one of the most pivotal plays of the whole season.
In the simplest of terms, if the Omenihu doesn’t step up to the plate the way he did, there is a chance the 49ers lose a heartbreaker at home. That would also mean they would lose the satisfaction of sending home their most storied rival the following week. Can you imagine a world where the 49ers don’t end the Cowboy’s season in back-to-back years? Yeah, me neither.
This was the perfect storm of picking up a teammate when they needed it most, the weight of a win-or-go-home game, and playing a hated division rival. The totality of all of this solidified Omenihu’s spot on this list.
While he may no longer be on the team heading into 2023, 49ers fans will always be able to look back fondly on the multi-sack games he logged against Seattle and Dallas in back-to-back seasons.
Omenihu’s final statistics from this game:
1 forced fumble