The San Francisco 49ers are rolling along at 5-0, and their defense has been a key reason for their success. The run game has been big, but the past two weeks the 49ers have given up a total of ten points to the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams — two defenses pundits figured would be high octane in 2019. Both have struggled with consistency this season, but looked downright pathetic when facing the 49ers.
San Francisco’s defense has gotten unexpected big plays from the secondary, but the front seven has been the best in the league. It helps investing several first round draft picks (DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas) and big free agent bucks (Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander) in the unit, but regardless, the group is dominating against both the run and pass.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is getting much-deserved praise for the design of the system, and it has helped turn him into a more prominent figure. He’s a fiery personality, and on Sunday against the Rams, we saw him in all his glory. The 49ers forced the Rams to turn the ball over on downs four times, and two of the possessions involved short yardage running situations.
Bay Area News Group writer Jon Becker compiled some of the highlights. First up was fourth and goal at the 1 yard line. The 49ers shut down Malcom Brown on 3rd and goal at the 1, and then followed up with this play — followed by Saleh celebrating.
In the fourth quarter with 10:37 remaining, the Rams had a 2nd and 1 situation at their 44. They were trailing 20-7, and there was still enough time to get back into the game. Jared Goff could not connect on a pair of passes, which set up fourth down. Darrell Henderson got the carry and ran into a brick wall, leading to more Saleh celebration.
The Rams recovered a 49ers fumble on the next drive and found themselves in a 3rd and 2 situation. Jared Goff couldn’t connect with Gerald Everett, on a play broken up by free safety Jimmie Ward. On 4th and 2, broke up a pass intended for Cooper Kupp, and Saleh once again was there to celebrate.
I think we're gonna need a live cam on Robert Saleh at all times pic.twitter.com/Ykkod0kd5d— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 13, 2019
Defensive coordinators can be a fiery sort, and when your defense is playing as well as the 49ers is right now, it’s entirely understandable.
The 49ers fantasy defense is currently rostered in 58.5 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. Considering they rank second in total points in spite of playing one fewer week than most other teams, I suspect this percentage will climb in Week 7.
Meanwhile, in DraftKings DFS they will be the second highest priced defense in Week 7, behind only the Buffalo Bills. The 49ers face a Washington team that showed some signs of life this past week against the Miami Dolphins, but is for the most part an awful football team. The 49ers defense leads all D/ST’s in points per game, and this matchup is an enticing one.