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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Schrager identifies the 49ers’ Achilles heel heading into the playoffs

Dec 23, 2021 at 6:56 AM

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The San Francisco 49ers are playing some pretty good football right now and have situated themselves nicely as the sixth seed in the NFC playoff picture. However, the winning has to continue, and that must begin with Thursday night's road game against the Tennessee Titans.

The 49ers could be an intriguing team heading into the playoffs. No one is really picking them to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, but no one in the NFC is looking forward to facing them either. That's because they are heading into the postseason hot, winning five of their last six and six of their previous eight.

Peter Schrager of Good Morning Football knows that head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad isn't perfect. Specifically, one position on defense could prove to be the team's Achilles heel.

"I don't know if they are going to be able to compete with these other big dogs, though, in the NFC if their pass defense does not get better," Schrager said on Thursday morning. "Their pass rush is great. We know [Nick] Bosa and [Arik] Armstead are coming, and those guys are great. But I watch a lot of Niners football. They have a giant Achilles heel on this team, and it's the pass defense. It's the cornerback position.

"Josh Norman's on one side, and right now, it's this hodgepodge of Ambry Thomas, the rookie out of Michigan, and it's Dontae Johnson if he's healthy and he's good to go, and they're getting torched week after week. [Bengals WR] Ja'Marr Chase put a show on a couple of weeks ago in a loss but was absolutely destroying No. 20, Thomas."

Schrager acknowledges that the 49ers can probably help Thomas—or whoever is playing opposite Norman—with some safety help but calls the position "an eyesore." Norman is playing because the Niners lost Jason Verrett in Week 1. Thomas is playing because of an injury to Emmanuel Moseley. While Verrett is done for the season, Moseley, on injured reserve with an ankle injury, could return for the postseason. There is hope that the pass defense might improve for a playoff run.

Of course, that doesn't help during this home stretch.

"I've got to think that [Titans QB Ryan] Tannehill is going to try to exploit it tonight," Schrager continued. "This cornerback situation gives me hesitance as well because you're eventually going to have to go up against Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, and all those wide receivers that are stars for them."

Schrager added, "Ambry Thomas, if you are watching, step up tonight. Show us that there is no Achilles heel and that I can take the Niners defense seriously for the long haul because at some point, teams are going to start picking on them exclusively at that spot, and they're going to have quarterbacks capable of doing it."
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