How San Francisco’s defensive line can excel
the San Francisco 49ers absolutely dominate with their run defense, and their run four obliterates opponents.
Last week, the Niners allowed just 45 rushing yards against the Dallas Cowboys‘tandem backfield’ Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked five times and lobbied 14 times.
It took a few weeks into the season for the Niners defense to show its dominance. But San Francisco’s run defense ranks No. 1 in the NFL in expected points added since Week 8. Likewise, the Niners’ defensive DVOA has dropped from 16th in the league to fourth since Week 10. Overall, San Francisco has allowed the seventh-fewest rushing yards (103.5 per game) on the season. regular.
When you watch Saturday’s playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, it’s a rematch of a Week 3 nail biter. The Niners defense forced a pair of three-outs in the second half but couldn’t get off the field last practice. The Packers then threw the winning basket when time expired.
If the Niners want to win this game, they’ll likely have to outplay Green Bay in the trenches. They need to bring down the Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers more than once, and it will require more rotations with Arik Armstead and DJ Jones inside.
In the clip below, even against double teams, Armstead and Jones obstruct the middle and force Elliott to bounce the game out.
When Armstead and Jones are both spread wide in a 3-tech and 4i, respectively, they execute a successful twist that draws in an extra lineman and isolates the edge rushers.
In the Week 3 game, the Packers were able to effectively take out Bosa as he looked for a one-on-one battle with the outside.
In these clips we see two examples of tight end chip blocks, which ended up knocking Bosa out of the game completely. Even if the tight end doesn’t get a clean block, it still gives Rodgers enough time in the pocket to browse his readings.
If the Niners want to prevent that from happening, they would be wise to use plenty of edge-on-tackle stunts. In last week’s game, the Cowboys had a similar plan for Bosa. They had a tight end Dalton Schultz chip-block Bosa, but instead the Niners called a double-spread stunt.
With the inside linemen both rushing to the left, it opened up a huge gap for Bosa to break free.
Bosa has the speed and quickness to get to Rodgers. It’s just something the Niners need to fit into their game plan.
San Francisco’s four-man front can take on the best offensive lines in the NFL. But there are pros and cons to using a wide nine defensive front. The four-man split leaves the rushers one-on-one, so if you have athletic players such as Bosa on the edge, it’s going to be a tough day for attacking tackles. The downside is the time it takes to reach the pocket. When the defense gets there, the pressure can be stifling.
So if the Niners use a straight run, expect Rodgers to get the ball out of his hand quickly. Inside twists and edge stunts on second-and-third and long plays will be key for the San Francisco defensive line if they want to keep the pressure on Rodgers.