No. 1: Pass Rush
The San Francisco 49ers’ pass rush was on fire on Saturday against the Vikings. The team’s passing defense stood out on account of all the pressure they were able to get on Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Led by edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, along with DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and even much maligned defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (all first-round picks, by the way), the 49ers got in Cousins’ face early and often.
In doing so, the 49ers accomplished this incredible feat:
Cousins was pressured 23 times, sacked six times, hit an additional three, and hurried 14 more times, all on just 29 drop backs. That means the quarterback was under duress nearly the entire game.
As noted in the most recent episode of the Niner Noise Podcast, Cousins is a much different quarterback when under pressure, and it showed on Sunday. He finished the game just 21-29 for 172 yards, one touchdown, and one pick, which he threw right to Niners corner Richard Sherman:
It was an incredibly dominant performance from the 49ers defensive line, which allowed the defensive backs to not have to do as much as they might have without the pressure rate.
In fact, if you remove Cousins’ early touchdown throw to Stefon Diggs, which went for 41 yards, the Vikings had just 131 passing yards on 28 throws, a not-so-great 4.7 yards per attempt.
It was a complete and masterful performance from the entire 49ers team, but the pass rush was as good as it’s been in weeks.
That’s something they’ll need to maintain over what will hopefully be two more games for the season, if they hope to get to and win the Super Bowl.