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Corey Perrine-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ cornerback shuffle vs. Jaguars paid off

Nov 13, 2023 at 1:00 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers' cornerback strategy against the Jacksonville Jaguars proved successful. Ambry Thomas finished Sunday's game with three tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. However, he nearly had a touchdown, too.

After Thomas took the football away from Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk, the cornerback got up and scampered downfield for what would have been a touchdown. Unfortunately for Thomas' stat line, his team was penalized after players and coaches ran onto the field from the sideline.

"I was mad at myself, and I thought the play was over," head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters after the game. "We couldn't see, and everyone jumped up."

Thomas finished the game with a career-high overall Pro Football Focus grade of 81.3. The 49ers implemented a cornerback shuffle, moving Thomas to the outside and allowing Deommodore Lenoir to assume the nickel spot, replacing Isaiah Oliver.

Thomas played 46 of the team's 57 defensive snaps during the game, while Lenoir played 53. Oliver's role was limited to three defensive snaps and eight on special teams.

"I think Ambry's made a lot of strides going back to even training camp," Shanahan said. "But [the shift] was nothing against anyone in particular. We just wanted to see Demo in the nickel a little bit, and Demo's got a kind of a knack for that. It'll be fun to go watch him on the plane [and] see how he did. But for us to make that choice, Ambry was the next man up outside."

The post-bye week adjustment paid off, contributing to the 49ers' defensive success. The defense limited Jacksonville to 162 passing yards, its best performance since October 8 against the Dallas Cowboys (140 passing yards), limiting the Jaguars to just three points.

Teammates noted the difference in Thomas, with linebacker Fred Warner praising the third-year cornerback's increased confidence.

"And that's truly the difference right now," Warner added. "I feel like he's been getting better and better every week, just waiting for his opportunity, and I think he made the most of it today. Obviously made that big play on the sideline, but I think he just competed his tail off all week and then leading into today."

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