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Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

49ers defense ranks No. 1 in points allowed

Nov 26, 2023 at 7:30 AM--

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It wasn't that long ago that everyone was trying to figure out what was wrong with the San Francisco 49ers' defense. Desperately searching for answers, the team even seemed willing to yield to media pressure, relocating defensive coordinator Steve Wilks from the coaching box to the sidelines during games following its bye week.

After struggling through three consecutive losses, the 49ers have won three straight since the adjustment. The defense is playing lights-out football, conceding only 30 total points over the last three games, a notable improvement from the 72 points allowed during its three-game skid.

As of Sunday morning, San Francisco's defense stands as the league's stingiest, permitting a mere 15.5 points per game. This marks a remarkable turnaround for a unit that was desperately seeking answers just a few weeks ago.

Since acquiring defensive end Chase Young, the team boasts a perfect 3-0 record. The defense managed 10 sacks out of 62 total pressures during their losing streak. That statistic has escalated to 22 sacks out of 79 total pressures since, reflecting a substantial jump in sack percentage (16.1% vs. 27.8%).

"I just think how much we're rushing as a group has changed," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the win in Seattle, a game in which his defense was credited for seven sacks. "I just think the guys, after we came back from the bye week, I just feel like we've moved a little bit better. Obviously, adding Chase helps the group, just the depth of it.

"When we weren't getting all the sacks, I still thought we were getting to the quarterback and hitting them, but it takes a whole group to get those numbers, and I think we've been doing that. And I think our coverage has gone better, too. Sometimes you get some coverage sacks, too, and when you make a quarterback take a couple of hitches with four guys going pretty hard at him, usually that's the result."

The 49ers' defense currently ranks fifth in total yards allowed per game and third in rushing yards allowed per game. It is 13th in passing yards allowed, surrendering an average of 213.3 yards per game. However, the unit only allowed 132 passing yards to the Seahawks, marking its second-lowest single-game performance of the season (121 in Week 3).

Seattle's biggest threat on offense, wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, was held to three catches for 32 receiving yards on nine targets while primarily covered by cornerback Charvarius Ward. Metcalf managed just one catch for 14 yards when matched against Ward, who effectively sidelined the 6-foot-4 wideout.

"The game plan wasn't for me to follow him," Ward told reporters after the game. "Shanahan was like, 'Why not? We need him to.' They told me to do it, and I was up to the task. I felt like I had a pretty good game."

Shanahan commended Ward's performance against Metcalf, stating, "You need a lot of ability, and they're going to try to get him the ball, and they're going to take their shots outside, and you want to put your best corner on him. And Mooney was ready for that."

Following their Thanksgiving night victory, the 49ers have been enjoying a few days off and will resume work on Monday as the team prepares for its showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles.

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