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Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

49ers vs. Panthers defensive grades: No Nick Bosa, No Problem?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Oct 13, 2022 at 3:15 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Carolina Panthers 37-15, scoring over 30 points for the first time this season, while the defense continued to be a force to reckon with.

Jimmy Garoppolo played his best game of the season, while the 49ers run game created big play opportunities to lead the offense to a high-scoring game.

Here are the defensive grades from Week 5.

Defensive Line: B+

For the second straight week, the 49ers were without Arik Armstead—who played just 41% of the defensive snaps in Week 5, and fellow DT Javon Kinlaw, meaning Kevin Givens and Hassan Ridgeway earned the start on the interior of the defensive line.

The 49ers' unit took another blow during the game as star defensive end Nick Bosa was ruled out with a groin injury, playing just 38% of the defensive snaps on Sunday.

However, the 49ers still got home against Panthers' QB Baker Mayfield, recording 21 pressures and six sacks on the day, even though Mayfield ranked 13th in the NFL in time to throw at 2.67 seconds.

Charles Omenihu, who has been San Francisco's secret weapon all season long, was the star of the day, recording five pressures and one sack, with his versatility playing a huge role with the 49ers being depleted along the defensive line.

Samson Ebukam and Drake Jackson each had three pressures and one sack, stepping up and filling in with the loss of Bosa.

Additionally, Hassan Ridgeway was a key cog up the middle, requiring multiple defenders on several occasions, which freed up linebackers to fill the lanes in the running game.

Carolina's offensive line clearly looked to neutralize San Francisco's defensive line, as their linemen never reached the second level on rushing attempts. Instead, they maintained their ground right around the line of scrimmage, allowing San Francisco's linebackers and defensive backs to clean up and limit bigger plays.

The Panthers' rushing attack never got going as a result, as star running back Christian McCaffrey was held to just 54 yards on 14 attempts, forcing Carolina to implement a quick passing game that led to good gains, but also several inaccurate passes from Baker Mayfield.

While the defensive line didn't have as much of a direct impact on this game, given the quick-game approach, Bosa's injury, and the game plan for Carolina's offensive linemen, they were still a vital part of San Francisco's success.

Linebackers: A

Because the defensive line attracted all of the attention from the offensive line, the linebackers were able to operate freely and had great games as a result.

Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner led the team in tackles once again, recording 11 and nine tackles respectively. Those numbers weren't just empty stats, as Greenlaw missed only one tackle, while Warner had a clean sheet for the second week in a row on significant volume.

Additionally, their impact defending the run was certainly felt as they led the team in run stops, recording three and two respectively.

As the Panthers' offensive line had their hands full with San Francisco's defensive line, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans was able to efficiently execute several linebacker blitzes and stunts, which resulted in sacks from Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Oren Burks.

Warner continues to man the middle of the field in coverage at an elite level for a linebacker, and his versatility as a pass-rusher, run-stopper, and coverage-linebacker allows for DeMeco Ryans to create favorable defensive looks.

Currently, the 49ers have the best linebacker tandem in the NFL, and they objectively haven't missed the presence of Azeez Al-Shaair, who was lost for 6-8 weeks to a knee injury sustained in the game against Denver, which speaks to how dangerous the unit could be upon his return.

Cornerbacks: B

Charvarius Ward continued his dominant string of performances, recording four pass-breakups on Sunday, which was the second-highest mark of any defender this season.

Ward now has eight pass breakups on the year, which is second to Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, who has nine.

Ward really had only two lapses on 61 snaps in Week 5, getting beat by Robbie Anderson on a deep route, and having a miscommunication with nickel back Deommodore Lenoir on a dig route that led to an open catch for Panthers WR D.J. Moore over the intermediate range of the field.

Otherwise, Ward was spectacular once again, showcasing his abilities in press-man coverage, as well as an aggressive and sound tackler. His tackling ability has been the most underrated element of his skillset this season, as the veteran cornerback now hasn't missed a tackle on 26 opportunities this season.

Emmanuel Moseley had yet another solid game, giving up just one catch on a slant route, while being targeted four times. Moseley's two pass-breakups were second on the team, behind Charvarius Ward, and their abilities to make plays on the ball have been a pleasant addition to the defense. Like Ward, Moseley is unafraid of exerting himself in the run game, leaving San Francisco with multiple strong tacklers in their secondary. Unfortunately, the impending free-agent cornerback suffered a torn ACL late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, effectively ending his season after a strong start.

Slot cornerback Deommodore Lenoir had a rougher performance as Baker Mayfield looked to target his slot receivers to move the offense in this game.

Lenoir gave up several catches, including a deep 31-yard catch to Shi Smith, but had close coverage on some opportunities, such as an 18-yard completion to D.J. Moore over the middle.

With Moseley injured, Lenoir was seen on the outside towards the end of the game, with rookie Samuel Womack entering at nickelback for a short period of time.

It remains unclear whether that arrangement will continue this weekend against the Falcons, or if veteran Jason Verrett will be cleared to start on the outside.

Safeties: B

Talanoa Hufanga, who's been the star of the defense to start the year, continued displaying his aggressiveness, which resulted in some bigger plays, as well as some lapses in his play.

Hufanga recorded two pressures on safety blitzes, with the latter ending in a sack from the second-year defensive back, while having two run stops in the game as well.

However, Hufanga did miss several tackles, which has been somewhat of a norm for the USC product, but there were repercussions as nobody was there to clean up one of his whiffs, resulting in a Christian McCaffrey touchdown.

But, the most important element was that Hufanga took responsibility for his mistake postgame, showing his maturity and development for a 22-year-old player.

In coverage, Hufanga was beaten when tasked to guard in the slot on a play, but wasn't targeted on that instance, while breaking up a pass later in the game with good instinctual ability to take away the deeper route and great closing speed to come back to the intermediate route on that play.

Tashaun Gipson was the beneficiary of another safety blitz from DeMeco Ryans, recording a sack on his lone pass-rushing snap.

Additionally, Gipson didn't miss a tackle all game, while not being targeted in the passing game on his 69 defensive snaps.

This year, Gipson has been a surefire tackler, missing zero tackles on his 14 opportunities, which has been a pleasant surprise in the secondary opposite of Hufanga with Jimmie Ward's absence.

Speaking of Ward, the veteran safety was healthy for the first time all year against the Panthers, but broke his hand on the opening kickoff, according to Kyle Shanahan, which will rule him out for this weekend's matchup against the Falcons.
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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