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Top 10 most impressive performances from 22’, No. 1: Nick Bosa vs. the Rams

Bosa usually saves his best for primetime games. The Rams were in for a rough outing

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone following along with this series knew the finale was going to be a Nick Bosa performance. Hopefully, there was still a bit of suspense as to which one it would be, given how many special games were put together by the star edge rusher in his Defensive Player of the Year campaign.

It was a tough choice, and to provide full clarity, a couple of other games just narrowly missed out on having the prestigious honor of being at the top of this list. Barely missing the cut was Bosa’s three-sack game against the Dolphins and the multi-sack games he put together against Seattle and Washington in back-to-back weeks.

I’d like to quickly address why this edged out the Christian McCaffrey game that landed in the two spot on this list. I originally had that game slotted for the number one spot.

But the more time I thought about it, the more I realized that if this was truly going to be a list about individual performances, the guy playing the position much more demanding of individual results would have to have the edge when it is all said and done.

It takes nothing away from McCaffrey, but it must be factored in that no matter how great he was, someone else was blocking for him, throwing the football to him, or in that particular game’s case, catching a football for him.

For the most part, Bosa did this on his own. What he achieved on an island with an opposing player repeatedly was why I ultimately called to give him the honor of taking the top spot on this list.

So, what made this Monday Night in early October stand out as the magnum opus of Bosa’s award-winning season? The way that Bosa appeared to flat-out break his opponent’s will. I struggled to recall a game where the body language and play reflected a team that was as morally defeated as the Rams were by the end of this one.

Akin to a prizefighter landing body blow after body blow in the early rounds of a fight, you could see the gradual progression of how Bosa obliterated the morale of the players on the other side of the ball.

Bosa recorded 14 total pressures in this game. That was the most by any player in the entire NFL during the 2022 season. The only other player to record that many pressures in a single regular season game over the last five seasons was Aaron Donald, who also had 14 pressures in Week 14 of the 2021 season.

In this game, he recorded a pressure on 31.1 percent of his pass-rushing snaps. To give you an idea of just how absurd that number is, it was nearly double the pressure rate he put up for the season, which was 16.4 percent.

He was the driving force behind a 49ers defense that suffocated the Rams’ offense, holding them to their lowest-scoring output of the season. It was the only game of the entire 2022 season that the Rams were held to a single-digit point total.

It was also arguably the worst game of Matthew Stafford’s stint with Los Angeles. Stafford’s 5.3 yards per attempt in this game was the lowest he had recorded since week 16 of the 2018 season.

This went beyond a game plan centered around getting the ball out quickly because of the 49ers’ vaunted pass rush. It was evident how much gravity the threat of Bosa alone presented Stafford and this Rams offense.

A lot of that can be attributed to the five quarterback hits by Bosa. Statistically, this was his finest performance by a wide margin, but what set the tone in this game was the psychological effect these punishing blows seemed to have over the full 60 minutes.

On the surface, this game might not appear to have very high stakes, considering it was week 4, and the 49ers won 13 games last year. However, going into it, this was as must-win as you could possibly get at that point in the season.

The 49ers were coming off a horrendous road loss to the Denver Broncos and had dropped two of their first three games, with both losses coming against two of the worst teams in the league. They needed to make a statement on prime time that they were a team that others in the league needed to fear. Bosa’s performance spearheaded a defensive showing that did exactly that.

As we dive into the film from this game, I want to focus on those quarterback hits I mentioned above. Part of what made this performance so special was the way that Bosa was able to exert a level of physicality that appeared to rattle one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league in, Stafford.

This was the first one of the game, early in the first quarter. Bosa attacks the tackle with a bull rush before winning the edge with a rip move to land this hit on Stafford. While the play resulted in positive yardage for the Rams, it was a win for the 49ers in the long run because it started the domino effect that was to come:

Another one of these hits showcases the technical ability that Bosa has at a fundamental level. He sells the stem of his rush upfield before firmly planting with his left foot to cut inside and clear the left tackle he just left completely off balance with the suddenness of this move:

Another QB hit for Bosa here. This time he uses a timely lift move to clear the right arm of the left tackle before shooting through the gap between the tackle and guard. Once again, Stafford pays the price for a minimal gain, ending up on the ground due to a hit from Bosa:

Even his sacks had an added physicality to them in this game. This one came on a 3rd & 8 in Rams territory late in the first quarter. Bosa is lined up as a 9 tech on the overload side of this defensive front.

Arik Armstead executes a textbook lift move on the center, which opens up space in the A gap for Bosa to loop inside on this designed stunt. Bosa also does his part to deceive the offensive line, selling the stem of his rush to the outside shoulder of the left tackle before hesi-stepping to shoot inside to the open space up the middle.

In as clean and legal of a way as you can be based on the modern rules, Bosa inflicted punishment on Stafford and shattered any hope the Rams had of retaking the lead on that drive:

As the game progressed, you could see how much the Bosa effect had caused Stafford’s internal clock to speed up. For example, he has time to plant and throw with a bit more structure on this bootleg. But with Bosa bearing down on him, Stafford quickly uncorked an inaccurate ball that sailed five yards over the head of his intended receiver in the flat:

Another good example of this came on one of the more impressive pass-rushing snaps from Bosa during this game. He is such a technically sound player that his athleticism and raw power get overlooked. Plays like this are a good reminder of his physical capabilities.

Bosa puts the left tackle on skates with a bull rush, driving him back toward Stafford in the pocket. As a result, the Rams quarterback is forced to make an off-platform throw on a relatively routine check down, leading to an incompletion on what is effectively a layup of a pass attempt:

The other thing that separated this game for me was that even when he wasn’t recording hits or sacks, he still seemed to be somewhere near the quarterback. I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering he recorded a pressure on nearly one out of every three pass-rushing snaps in this game.

Here is a great example. Even though this results in a completion for the Rams, this is a win on an individual level for Bosa. He uses a club move on the inside shoulder of the left tackle, nearly getting home with the pressure before Stafford lets this ball rip:

On this play, he uses another hesi-step to loop inside, beating the left guard with what looks like a stab lift to nearly break up this ball thrown by Stafford. That’s where a lot of the excellence in this performance lies for me. Even on the successful plays for the Rams’ passing attack, Bosa made them work for every inch of grass on that field.

He also assisted his teammates in a big way. Bosa’s havoc aided this sack by Deommodore Lenoir on a pressure from the slot Bosa caused coming up the middle. The pressure he generated with a rip move forced Stafford off his spot to his left, where an awaiting Lenoir promptly greeted him for a big loss:

Bosa’s final sack of the game was also a bit symbolic of this. Even though he doesn’t win with his initial swipe move, his motor never stops, and he ends up being the last defender to get a hand on Stafford before he gives himself up for a sack:

This one had it all. It was an exhibition of all the things Bosa does well. The sum of all parts that create the best pass rusher in the business. Speed, precision, power. Multiple sacks. Season high-pressure total.

But the sticking point for me was how he broke his opponent’s will. It’s seldom seen at this level of football, so I gave this game the nod at the top of the list.

Here are Bosa’s total numbers from this game:

14 pressures

2 sacks

5 quarterback hits

2 tackles for loss

31.1 percent pressure rate

Here is the complete top ten list, with links that will take you to each of the articles written for each spot:

#10 - Brandon Aiyuk @ Atlanta

#9 - Charvarius Ward @ Carolina

#8 - Brock Purdy vs Tampa Bay

#7 - Talanoa Hufanga @ Chicago

#6 - George Kittle vs Washington

#5 - Charles Omenihu vs Seattle

#4 - Deebo Samuel vs Los Angeles Rams

#3 - Fred Warner vs Dallas

#2 - Christian McCaffrey @ Los Angeles Rams

#1 - Nick Bosa vs Los Angeles Rams

I greatly appreciate those that kept up with this series. This is one of my favorite pieces of content I do throughout the year. However, as much as I enjoy doing it, it also takes a significant amount of time to go back and watch all these games and cut up the film clips for each article. So thank you for being patient and bearing with me while I put this together.

I cannot wait to speak with you all in the comments and hear your thoughts on where you would have placed certain games, ones I might have missed, or anything else you’d like to discuss about the topic. As always, thanks for reading my work!