The 49ers were off to a rough start to the season, losing two very winnable games in the first three weeks due to a lack of scoring. Now down to their third-string rookie quarterback, San Francisco has clinched the NFC West. How did we get here after a rough start?
49ers Defensive Dominance
San Francisco’s elite defense is the most significant part of their recent success in 2019 and 2021. Coming into this season, the 49ers improved what was already a great defense by adding cornerback Charvarius Ward who has been lights out this season. The 49ers also trusted the development of their second-year safety Talanoa Hufanga who has been one of the best safeties in the NFL this season. This improvement to the secondary has helped solidify all three levels of the defense.
To go with an elite secondary, this team has the best linebacker core in Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair. These three fly around the field and make plays everywhere in the passing and running games. The defensive line led by Nick Bosa has also been excellent, as Bosa currently leads the NFL in sacks with 15.5 for the second straight season.
Collectively, the 49ers only allow 15 points per game which is the best in the NFL. They are also the best at defending the run this season, only allowing 74.7 rushing yards per game and allowing a league-best of just 3.4 yards per carry allowed. The defense has only given up 20 points or more twice this season. The defense allowed 21 points against the Falcons with Nick Bosa out and 44 points to the Chiefs when Patrick Mahomes put on a show.
With a defense this dominant from top to bottom, the 49ers can beat anybody as long as they are relatively healthy. It is also safe to say defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans will be at or near the top of the list for open head coaching positions this off-season.
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49ers Trade For Christian McCaffrey
Following San Francisco’s loss to Atlanta, the front office made an aggressive trade for superstar running back Christian McCaffrey. Since McCaffrey joined the team, the offense, which seemed to be the weakest link, has completely turned around.
McCaffrey gave the 49ers another dynamic weapon and has basically allowed them to play position-less football. Not only did the Niners get an elite weapon at running back, but they also got another solid receiver in McCaffrey. The former Stanford running back also gives the Niners a safety blanket option to cut down on mistakes. Jimmy Garoppolo did not throw a single interception with Christian on the field this season.
Christian McCaffrey seems like a player who will find a way to gain 100 or more yards combined through the ground and the air. With the offensive weapons healthy, it is like a pick-your-poison type of offense.
The 49ers Have The Best Quarterback Room In The NFL
San Francisco’s season got off to a very discouraging start as starting quarterback Trey Lance suffered a season-ending injury in Week Two against the Seattle Seahawks. Luckily, the Niners failed to trade Jimmy Garoppolo during the off-season and were able to stash him on the bench as their backup for a lower price.
Garoppolo played some of the best football of his career this season for the 49ers. The veteran finished the 2021 season with 20 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. This season, Garoppolo threw 16 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. Jimmy G also threw four passing touchdowns on Monday Night Football against the Arizona Cardinals in one of his best games as a Niner.
Unfortunately, Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending injury against the Miami Dolphins. With Garoppolo on the final year of his deal and Trey Lance on track to return healthy next season, this was probably Garoppolo’s last game as a 49er.
Now down to their third-string rookie quarterback, who was the final pick of the NFL Draft in 2022, the 49ers have found a diamond in the rough in Brock Purdy. The Arizona native and former Iowa State quarterback immediately stepped into the starting role with poise. In years past, it seemed like the season was lost whenever the backup quarterback had to start for this team. With Purdy, that isn’t the case.
Purdy played well and executed against the Dolphins to secure a victory and was impressive in his first career start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Purdy is the only “Mr. Irrelevant” to ever throw a touchdown pass in an NFL game, and he is also the first-ever quarterback to come out victorious in his first career start against Tom Brady.
The 49ers this week went into Seattle on a short week in what felt like a playoff environment and came out on top to win the NFC West. Brock Purdy played very well in the game and was playing with an injured oblique he suffered four days prior.
Kittle down the middle! #ProBowlVote @gkittle46 📺: #SFvsSEA on @NFLonPrime 📱: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/m20WLUUTep — San Francisco 49ers – x (@49ers) December 16, 2022
The Quest For Six Continues
The 49ers have done a remarkable job putting together a generational defense and an offense that is so talented it can produce with just about anybody playing quarterback this season.
With the NFC West locked up for San Francisco, they will host a playoff game at Levi’s Stadium this winter. If Purdy continues his consistent play throughout the playoffs, the 49ers could end up playing in the Super Bowl in Glendale. With the slow start, the adversity and Mr. Irrelevant now under center for a contending team, this season has truly felt like a movie for the Niners.