49ers defensive grades
When a defense gives up 46 points, there is plenty of blame to be assigned. The Niners had a few stops when they needed them, but at the very end, the defense failed to stop Drew Brees from marching down the field.
Defensive line: B-
This grade is largely influenced by EDGE Nick Bosa, who although finished the game without a sack, was a disruptive force that wrecked havoc on the Saints offense. The Niners defensive line didn’t get a ton of pressure on Brees, but it did bottle up Saints running back Alvin Kamara, and defensive tackle D.J. Jones forced a fumble that turned the tide on the game.
Lost amid the chaos of the game was that EDGE Dee Ford re-aggravated his hamstring injury. While Ford has been relegated to a part-time player because of his injuries, he had been a big part of the defensive rotation. And with the long-term injuries in the position group, his health will be critical come January and potentially February.
Fred Warner played another good game, although his missed tackle on Saints wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith led to the final Saints touchdown, and Warner’s poor recognition of tight end Jared Cook‘s route led to New Orleans’ first touchdown. Dre Greenlaw had a decent performance, diagnosing plays as he learns on the fly.
Overall, the Saints exploited the tight end on linebacker matchup and came away victorious more often than not.
The loss of Alexander was always going to affect this team in a negative way, but having rookie mistakes play out on the field is a big issue the Niners hope can be resolved rapidly. These last two games provided blueprints on how to beat San Francisco’s defense, potentially, and both game plans involve exposing the linebackers.
The 49ers secondary had no real redeeming plays. Both cornerbacks Richard Sherman and K’Waun Williams exited the game with injuries, and with them gone, the secondary seemed to fall apart. Marcell Harris was not strong in pass coverage while filling in for the starting safety, Jaquiski Tartt.
Ahkello Witherspoon dropped what would have been a game-clinching interception, and Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas took him to work the entire game. Now, Thomas tends to do that to all cornerbacks, but it was still jarring.
Sherman and Emmanuel Moseley both had crucial penalties that extended drives that lead to New Orleans points, too.
When the pass rush doesn’t get home, the secondary’s job gets harder for sure. But this was something different. This was a beatdown saved only by the Niners offense getting the job done. Lots of improvement to be had, but the secondary can rest easy knowing they didn’t cost the team a crucial win.