No. 3: 49ers defense struggles with running quarterbacks
The 49ers defensive line has been dominant throughout the 2019 season, of that there is very little doubt. In many ways, they continued this on Sunday against Arizona, including the continuation of a very impressive statistic:
Yet in spite of those numbers, the last three weeks have told us one thing: quarterbacks who are threats to run the ball give the 49ers defense fits.
They managed to hold Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in check last Monday, and even though they lost, they silenced the critics who saw the first game in Arizona as the sign of a major defensive flaw.
Sunday’s game, where they often lost contain on Kyler Murray, who gashed them for 67 yards rushing on just eight carries, not to mention the number of passing plays he extended with his legs, won’t do much to end that line of thinking.
Some of the issue might be lack of discipline on the edge, leading to containment problems that are bad news against a quarterback like Murray or Wilson. But it also might be defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s choice to not put a spy on these types of quarterbacks, as he’s counting on his defensive lineman to control the line of scrimmage.
Since this isn’t the end of the running threat quarterback line this season — the 49ers still have the Ravens with Lamar Jackson, Wilson again and the Packers with Aaron Rodgers, who isn’t the same threat, but still counts, left on the schedule — Saleh will have to figure out a better plan.
The 49ers defense is still one of the best in the league, but this type of flaw, with so many quarterbacks in the NFL capable of taking advantage of it, is not a good one to have. They’ll have to scheme up the solution, and soon.