Week 1 by the numbers
Without a doubt, the San Francisco defense is what will make this team either progress or regress. Last year it was definitively the team’s weakest point. It was the reason the 49ers lost so many games, 14 in all, last season. Simply, San Francisco couldn’t stop people from scoring.
That’s why the 49ers used two first-round draft picks on defenders, and signed one of free agency’s top linebackers, Malcolm Smith, to a five-year deal worth $26.5 million. Add in former first-round picks, defensive linemen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, and it’s crystal-clear: San Francisco is attempting to build an elite front-seven.
For the preseason, this is where the 49ers defense ranked in a number of categories, per NFL.com:
- Scoring defense struggled — ranked 28th (23.8 points per game).
- Above-average for yardage, allowing 295.0 yards a game (14th-ranked team).
- Top-level third-down defense, only giving up first downs 33% of the time (10th-ranked team).
- Overall,14th in total defense.
Obviously, these statistics are affected by the fact that the starters played tiny portions of the game-time that constitute the numbers. But it still gives you a good snap shot of the team’s defense this preseason.
By the simple eye test, the 49ers defense was incredible in the third preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, which features the most playing time for starters.
The presumed top two running backs in Minnesota, Lataivus Murray and Dalvin Cook, failed to do anything impactful against the San Francisco starters. The pair combined for 23 yards on 7 carries, an average of 3.2 yards a carry. As a team, the Vikings averaged 3.1 yards a carry.
The 49ers also were able to get pressure on the quarterback as well, with Armstead, Buckner and Elvis Dumervil all registering a sack each. That’s exactly the showing one hopes to get out of their defensive line.