The 49ers kick off their 2021 regular-season campaign against the Lions, and starting off with a win should hinge on the defensive efforts.
For the first time on the regular-season schedule, fans will get to see whether or not the San Francisco 49ers‘ preseason dominance on defense will count when it matters most.
The Niners defense ranked second in the NFL during the exhibition phase with an average of only 188.3 net yards per game, and it’s likely to be this side of the ball that’ll shoulder a good chunk of the load in Week 1 against the rebuilding Detroit Lions.
The good news is San Francisco’s defense achieved so much success without its top two pass-rushers on the field, Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, who were resting and preparing for the regular season after suffering serious injuries a year ago. Tack on the presence of Bosa and Ford, and one can see why the 49ers could boast a 2019-like defense once more.
And, whew, what a task for a rebuilding Lions squad.
Yet Detroit, short of offensive talent, has done a good job restocking its offensive line, a unit Pro Football Focus ranked 10th overall entering the regular season. So it’s possible a swarm of sacks on quarterback Jared Goff aren’t going to be the norm this Sunday.
Pressure will be important, yes. But defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans can’t regularly rely on a four-man pass rush to get home with regularity.
No, instead there have to be some other defensive focal points for Ryans and Co. in order for the Niners to take home a Week 1 victory on the road this Sunday.