Potential Heavyweight Rising in the Bay

The Niners got their groove back last night in Santa Clara, beating the defending Super Bowl champions and division rival Los Angeles Rams 24-9 in a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game.

If it wasn’t obvious already, Monday night’s performance showed that DeMeco Ryans’ terrifying defense will give the Niners a chance to beat anybody. The front seven was in the opposing backfield all night, sacking quarterback Matt Stafford seven times and accumulating nine tackles for loss in the run game. The Rams didn’t have a play of more than 20 yards.

The San Francisco defense functions like a boa constrictor, exerting steady pressure and gradually squeezing the life out of opposing offenses. Stafford never had the time to look downfield, and while the Rams found success completing passes underneath to Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee, their 24 combined receptions accounted for only 195 yards (8 yards per completion).

The field just got shorter and shorter for Stafford, and the death knell came when Talanoa Hufanga jumped a wide receiver screen at the line of scrimmage and took it to the house for a pick-six in the 4th quarter. Through four games, this defense looks historically good, and they should be licking their chops going into a tasty matchup with the Carolina Panthers next Sunday.

While the Rams were dinking and dunking underneath all night, timely chunk plays from the Niners offense salvaged an otherwise middling performance. The offensive line cleared the way for running back Jeff Wilson, Jr. to run untouched up the middle for a 32 yard touchdown in the first quarter, and the incomparable Deebo Samuel turned a short catch into a 57 yard touchdown late in the second.

Samuel has always played with a mean streak, and his sheer force of will is on display every time he gets his hands on the ball. Along with his hard-nosed teammates George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk, this Niner offense can really beat up defenses. They may not be the most dynamic unit in the league, but they very well may be the strongest and toughest.

Now holding the top spot in the NFC West, the Niners are forging an identity. This physically overpowering group grinds down opponents with a barrage of body shots before dealing the knockout blow, and the NFL is starting to take note of the heavyweight coming out of the Bay.