The 2019 San Francisco 49ers identity is built through defense
A team lead by their "offensive guru" coach and high priced quarterback might need to rebrand their identity after the 49ers 24-20 victory.
For the first time since 1998, the 49ers are 3-0 and it's because of their defense. The 2019 San Francisco 49ers are a defense-first team and there's nothing wrong with that because they're winning.
By many standards, the 49ers shouldn't have won today, but having a defense like the 49ers will keep them in every game. The offense played as clumsy as they possibly could to start the game. They turned the ball over five times- five, and they still we're able to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Games like this are games Kyle Shanahan is all too familiar with because he's been on the opposite side of all too many. The 49ers haven't been able to squeak out victories like this while Shanahan has been here, and the head coach and he knows that.
"The game today and the game at Tampa are games we have not been able to win here," Shanahan said in his press conference after the 49ers home win. "To have two games like that where things don't go perfect I think says a lot about the character of guys in there."
The 49ers played out of rhythm today in another choppy and sloppy game, but Shanahan said the team never wavered and played with excitement even when things looked bleak.
"They were pretty relentless through everything," said Shanahan. "They never wavered at all."
"They were pretty relentless through everything, they didn't waiver at all."- 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) September 23, 2019
Kyle Shanahan credits mental toughness through a hard fought victory pic.twitter.com/PAyATf2O6g
Jimmy Garoppolo's group turned the ball over four times in the first half and the 49ers defense only allowed six total points. Dropped passes and fumbles put the 49ers defense in tough positions up and down the field, but no matter the situation they stood up.
After each turnover, the 49ers defense answered. Yes, it was a rookie quarterback in his first start on the road, but the defense shut down Mason Rudolph who looked good against the Seattle Seahawks last week.
The 49ers defensive line had another suffocating performance. Rudolph was under duress every time he dropped back. Nick Bosa didn't stuff the stat sheet but he was consistently pressuring Rudolph in the pocket. The rookie was a problem for two-time pro-bowler Alejandro Villanueva who was chasing Bosa up and down the Levi's Stadium field.
Each one of the 49ers first-round picks on the defensive line played well. Soloman Thomas, Arik Armstead, and DeForest Buckner all contributed in the 49ers defensive win. High priced free agent signing Dee Ford also tacked on a sack.
It was an impressive performance from the 49ers defensive line against a once-dominant Steelers offensive line that boasts three former pro-bowlers.
Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, the closers Shanahan and Lynch set out to find this past offseason. pic.twitter.com/WqBqoJgUBT- Dylan DeSimone (@DylanADeSimone) September 22, 2019
The only real mistakes from the 49ers defense came on two long touchdown passes from Rudolph. One to Juju Smith-Schuster and one to rookie Diontae Johnson. The tables turned and the 49ers defense needed the offense to step up.
After the Smith-Schuster touchdown, the 49ers offense responded with their best drive of the day. A 10-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by Jeff Wilson Jr's 4-yard touchdown run.
The 49ers final mistake looked devastating when Richie James Jr. fumbled the ball away with 6:49 remaining and down three, the 49ers defense came through in maybe their biggest moment yet.
Arik Armstead was able to punch the ball away from James Conner and Buckner recovered. The pressure flipped back to the offense and Garoppolo answered the bell with a poetic game-winning touchdown pass to Dante Pettis.
DeForest Buckner on Arik Armstead's forced fumble that set up #49ers game winning touchdown & how good Armstead has been early this season. pic.twitter.com/y41FgFj2yl- 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) September 23, 2019
Richard Sherman summed up the 49ers home opener perfectly, "We didn't play perfect, but our record is perfect."
The 49ers have 15 days to recover and prepare for a chance to start the season 4-0 versus the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football.
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