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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers vs. Broncos defensive grades: Another defensive masterclass ruined for the 49ers

Rohan Chakravarthi
Sep 28, 2022 at 3:30 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers suffered another head-scratching loss, this time to the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football by the score of 11-10, in a game where the defensive brilliance could not overcome the offensive woes.

Here are the defensive grades for the 49ers in Week 3:

Defensive Line: A

About 90 minutes prior to game time, reports surfaced that the 49ers would be without star defensive tackle Arik Armstead, potentially making the matchup even tougher, especially with San Francisco facing off against the strong running back duo of Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon.

Despite the loss, the 49ers' defensive line didn't skip a beat, as the team had a whopping 18 run stops on the day, limiting the Broncos' rushing attack to just 101 yards on 33 carries (3.1 yards per carry) and 160 passing yards (5.6 yards per attempt).

The 49ers' defensive line had five of those run stops, with DE Samson Ebukam and DT Hassan Ridgeway being credited with two apiece, while DT Javon Kinlaw had one.

Additionally, the 49ers wreaked havoc in the passing game, sacking the elusive Russell Wilson four times, with Nick Bosa, Kevin Givens, Drake Jackson, and Kerry Hyder all recording one sack each.

Overall, the 49ers combined for 24 total pressures, with DE Nick Bosa leading the way with six. Additionally, Samson Ebukam had five pressures, Charles Omenihu had four, Kevin Givens had three, and Drake Jackson had two on the day. Three defensive tackles (Javon Kinlaw, Hassan Ridgeway, and Kerry Hyder) had one a piece.

The depth on this 49ers' defensive line is legitimate and they'll continue to be a force for opposing offenses to contend with, which should keep them in games as long as the offense can produce.

Linebackers: A

Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner had very impactful games from the linebacker position, with the former missing zero tackles while recording two run stops and the latter missing one tackle, but also recording two run stops.

Both players were among the leaders in tackles for the 49ers, with Greenlaw recording a team-high 10 tackles and Warner not far behind with seven and a pass defended.

Azeez Al-Shaair did depart the game early with an MCL injury that is expected to keep him out for several weeks, but backup linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles performed well in his absence with a run stop of his own.

On special teams, free agent signee Oren Burks continues to make an impact, showcasing why the 49ers signed him, and improving that unit as a whole.

Despite the loss of Al-Shaair, the 49ers' linebackers continue to be one of the stronger units on the team, which should continue as the defense looks to repeat its elite performances.

Cornerbacks: A-

The 49ers made a significant shift at cornerback, starting second-year player Deommodore Lenoir in the slot over rookie Samuel Womack, which head coach Kyle Shanahan attributed to the former's effort in practice over the past two weeks.

From the beginning, it seemed as if the Broncos were looking to target their slot receiver, while placing Courtland Sutton against Emmanuel Moseley at times as well.

Moseley did a fairly good job, giving up a few catches, but maintaining his ground and recording yet another pass-breakup.

Russell Wilson only threw for 184 yards, and while his intended air yards per pass was 7.5, he threw for just 4.8 air yards per completion, meaning he largely targeted the shallow areas of the field.

Additionally, the 49ers forced eight three-and-outs against Wilson, which were the most of his career, and have produced a three-and-out on a whopping 45% of defensive drives this season, leading the NFL by a wide margin, according to PFF.

Charvarius Ward continues to be a lockdown corner, allowing just a 33% completion rate, while breaking up a pass of his own.

Furthermore, Ward had two run stops of his own, while Moseley had one as well, as the former hasn't missed a single tackle all season in addition to his stout coverage.

Safeties: A-

Talanoa Hufanga continues to amaze with his instincts and ability to diagnose plays, utilizing his burst to keep up with in-breaking routes and taking away opportunities for quarterbacks.

He's arguably been one of the best safeties in the NFL thus far, with defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans utilizing him perfectly in his robber and two-high role, allowing him to maximize his abilities.

However, similar to last week, the biggest surprise has been his counterpart, Tashaun Gipson, who has played admirably while filling in for starter Jimmie Ward, who was placed on Injured Reserve to begin the season.

Gipson has shown an ability to man the deep areas of the field as in coverage, limiting explosive plays for opposing offenses and allowing Hufanga to play closer to the line of scrimmage.

Hufanga also continued his dominance in the run game, recording three more run stops on Sunday, and he now leads the NFL with 11 total run stops through three weeks, according to PFF.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan anticipates Jimmie Ward returning to practice soon, which should further solidify an already talented room for the 49ers.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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