Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers-Seahawks: Defense rises to occasion after mistake-filled performance in Week 1 loss

Sep 18, 2022 at 8:24 PM--

Say this for the 49ers defense -- they certainly learned their lesson after a forgettable outing in Week 1.

The 49ers actually played well on defense for most of the team's 19-10 road loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 1, but mistakes down the stretch such as missed assignments and costly penalties that kept drives alive proved to be instrumental in the Bears' comeback from a 10-0 third quarter deficit. Things started off similar in the team's 27-7 home win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2, but this time the defense made sure they ended differently.

The Seahawks fell into a 20-0 hole but made a potentially game-changing play in the third quarter when they blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown to cut the 49ers' lead to 20-7. It was reminiscent to a third quarter touchdown pass from Bears quarterback Justin Fields to wide receiver Dante Pettis, who was left wide open on the play while 49ers defenders pursued Fields when he ran from the pocket. That play, and the 15-yard face mask penalty on linebacker Dre Greenlaw prior to it that kept the drive alive, started a momentum shift that led the Bears to 19 unanswered points.

Greenlaw's penalty was one of multiple drive-enabling infractions the 49ers committed last week, while Pettis' touchdown wasn't the only time the 49ers made an assignment mistake on defense. But against the Seahawks, the 49ers weren't about to let the dam break twice.

"We were in kind of an eerily similar situation to last week," defensive end Nick Bosa said after the win over Seattle. "We obviously didn't come out last week and finish the game, so we made sure we weren't going to let up at all. I think we did that and we capped it off with a win."

The 49ers wound up keeping the Seahawks' offense off the scoreboard in the 27-7 win while holding them to just 36 rushing yards and 216 yards overall. They also forced two turnovers along the way. Chalk it up to learning from the mistakes they made against the Bears one week prior.

"I think we learned from what we did in the first game, just some of those penalties and not playing a full four-quarter game," linebacker Fred Warner said. "Regardless of the penalties, honestly, there were a couple plays where we were off-assignment, and that's where they made some plays on us. So we learned from that, we adjusted, and then we wanted to play a full four-quarter game."

As far as penalties, the 49ers committed just one against the Seahawks after being flagged 12 times in Chicago. The improvement certainly made a difference down the stretch.

"That's definitely a big improvement for us, just being smarter with certain things," Bosa said. "When you're suffocating an offense like we have the past two weeks, that can be game-changing. When they blocked that field goal and scored, it's a (20-point) game, could have been a 23-0 game. That's a ten-point swing. You never want to give a team life, especially a rival, and Seattle's been tough to close out since I've been here and before. So the fact we were clean on that is a big reason we won."

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan took the lone touchdown from the Seahawks as an opportunity to poke some fun at his defense, but he was also thrilled with their overall performance in Sunday's win.

"The defense was unbelievable," Shanahan said. "I just got on them for not shutting them out. They took offense to that. But no, I was being sarcastic with them. They were unbelievable today, did great versus the run, and getting those two turnovers was huge and getting the one on special teams."

Much of what Shanahan saw from the defense on Sunday matched what he saw against the Bears, but without the negatives.

"I think they played the exact same way they played last week," Shanahan said. "They got after those guys until those three drives and a couple penalties. So I thought we did a better job not extending some drives."

* Bosa on Drake Jackson: Bosa was credited with two sacks against the Seahawks, one of which he made while accompanied by rookie defensive end and second-round pick Drake Jackson. Bosa talked briefly after the game about the progress Jackson has made in recent weeks.

"He's been getting better. He's gotten a ton better," Bosa said. "He's getting a lot better every day. I try to challenge him to work on one thing every day and just try to remind him because some days he can go out to practice and go through the motions. For him it's going to be about just working every day and trying to find certain things to improve on, and he's done that. If he keeps doing it over time, he's going to be a very good player."
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