Most NFL teams would struggle on defense without their top star, let alone without two key starters.
Case in point, the undefeated Denver Broncos, who have been without cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker Von Miller the entire season. Despite their perfect record, the Bronco defense has struggled mightily through five games, ranking near the bottom half of the league in points allowed (27.8 a game), passing yards (347) and total yards (416.6). Their number one ranked rushing defense is disguised by the fact that their offense is putting up 46 points a game, forcing opposing teams to have to come from behind; hence, the ranking.
The 49ers on the other hand, are ravaged by injuries on both sides of the ball, but their defense may be the most beat up in the NFL.
Currently, the 49ers are without the following defensive starters and/or key contributors:
– linebacker Patrick Willis (missed last two games with a groin injury)
– defensive tackle Ian Williams (out for the year- broken ankle)
– linebacker Aldon Smith (out indefinitely- legal issues/rehab)
– cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (missed last two games with a knee injury)
– cornerback Chris Culliver (out for year- torn ACL)
In Sunday night’s win against Houston, defensive end Ray McDonald suffered a partially torn muscle in his right bicep that will require surgery in the offseason.
Yet, despite all of the injuries that have piled up on the Niners, their defense continues to be one of the top in the league.
They currently rank 12th in points allowed, 5th in total yards, and are number two in the league against the pass. For a defense that was torched in the playoffs last year and again by Green Bay to start this season, the 49ers secondary has been spectacular.
For the Niners, despite the walking wounded, they continue to play stout defense with the motto of “next man up”.
Role players like defensive tackle Tony Jerrod-Eddie, linebackers Michael Wilhoite, Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier, and cornerback Tramaine Brock have all stepped up in timely fashion.
Jerrod-Eddie intercepted Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub, Whilhoite recorded 13 tackles against Houston, while Skuta and Lemonier have applied constant pressure on opposing QBs since the departure of Aldon Smith. Brock meanwhile just named the NFC defensive player of the week after intercepting two passes and returning one for a touchdown against Houston.
In today’s NFL, teams constantly battle injuries, but the team that can sustain themselves are the ones with staying power, and the 49ers are one of those teams.