San Francisco 49ers Defense is Among the NFL’s Best


The San Francisco 49ers are a very different team than they were last season. Obviously, the biggest changes happened to their defense. The all-pro veterans, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis, retired. However, the greatest changes exist in new personnel rather than those who left. Despite the crazy offseason of personnel shifts, the 49ers’ current defensive unit might be stronger than it was last year.

Every 49ers’ fan should thank the football gods for the return of NaVorro Bowman. Without a doubt, he is the fiercest linebacker in the league right now. Taking all of last season off was clearly a great decision because Bowman played at a very high level in the dominating defensive performance against the Vikings.

Bowman’s matchup against Adrian Peterson was highly anticipated, but the linebacker absolutely stuffed the Vikings’ running attack. Seriously, don’t doubt Bowman’s ability to get past his terrible knee injury. He’s a machine who’s in the prime of his career. With Willis’s departure, Bowman has fully embraced his new role as the top leader of this team. NaVorro Bowman is the main reason that the Niners’ defense is such a cohesive and energetic group at the start of this season.

When the Niners’ offense wasn’t able to score early in the game, their defense was there to make bold stops. More specifically, the 49ers only allowed one third down conversion all game, and that’s how Carlos Hyde was able to get so many carries that led the offense to a good day.

Plus, the Vikings were held to under 250 yards of total offense. If the Niners keep up that pace, they could have one of the top defensive units in the league this season. They have a great matchup against the Steelers on Sunday. Pittsburgh still won’t have Le’Veon Bell, so we could see more dominating run defense from the 49ers against the Steelers.

Aside from Bowman, the next man to thank for the great week one performance is Eric Mangini. Hiring him as the new defensive coordinator was one of the best moves the 49ers made in years. Mangini is truly a brilliant coach. His defensive packages ranging from blitzes to coverage schemes always seemed to stump the Vikings. The 49ers clearly have tons of strength and speed on defense, but Mangini’s high football IQ brings the best out of every player.

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A coach always loves when defensive players swarm ball carriers. The Niners’ rarely stopped a play with one-on-one tackles. After the first guy wrapped up a runner, at least two or three more defenders arrived to knockout the Vikings. That’s a huge reason why the 49ers were able to get so many sacks. Teddy Bridgewater was able to evade initial contact at times, but he couldn’t escape from multiple swarming pass rushers. Next to Hyde’s brilliant day running the ball, the Niners’ dominating defense was the most exciting thing to watch during the game.

It was also surprising how well the secondary performed. Antoine Bethea led the 49ers with eight tackles, and Tramaine Brock caught an impressive interception. Last season, the secondary was at fault for many of those awful penalties that plagued the team. However, everybody played with a greater maturity and productivity to start this season. The 49ers will win a lot of games if they have consistent smart and aggressive performances.