SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers’ defense was humiliated a little last month by Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Since then it has been the usual dominance of the unit again – especially in the second half.
The Niners put together three defensive masterpieces to earn a tie for first place in the NFC West by running second-half shutouts against the Rams, Chargers and Cardinals.
“The guys did a great job in the second half, being where they were supposed to be and making the plays they were supposed to be making,” defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said Wednesday. “They’re doing an excellent job. I can’t give these guys enough credit. If you want to win games, you have to strike in the second half. They’ve been doing that for three weeks.”
It’s a far cry from what happened against Kansas City in Week 7, when the Chiefs hit TDs in the first four drives of the second half in a 44-23 win at Levi’s Stadium.
But San Francisco (6-4) has since gotten healthier and has benefited from a lighter opponent list.
The Niners gave up a couple of big games in the first half of those three wins, but Ryans’ unity made the necessary changes to ensure that didn’t happen in the second half.
“He’s amazing,” Nick Bosa said of Ryan’s at the end of the defense. “He knows when to make the right decisions. Unfortunately I don’t think he will be here much longer if he wants a managerial job somewhere. But three second-half shutouts in a row wins the football and if we can keep it up then we’ll be a hard team to beat with our offense.”
This is only the third time since at least 1991 that the Niners have knocked out three opponents in a row in the second half, en route to the Super Bowl in 2019 and 1991.
They’ve conceded just 242 yards after halftime in those games, averaging just 3.1 yards per game.
“This is just a product of execution,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “All the more energy is brought in because you make more games and the whole team feeds on that. So we just have to keep being hard on ourselves.”
The 49ers’ defense has playmakers at all three levels, with Bosa leading the pass rush with 10 1/2 sacks, Warner and Dre Greenlaw patrolling center field as linebackers, and a much-improved secondary with cornerback Charvarius Ward, the up-and-coming big-play -Safety comes from Talanoa Hufanga and the return from injury of reliable Jimmie Ward.
Now Ryans wants to see his defense put everything together for a full game and avoid the meltdowns that have led to some big games in the first half of the last three games.
“We’re thinking about just playing clean football,” he said. “Really the focus is on how we do that in the first half. Can’t we give up the Bonehead game in the first half for teams to even be able to knock them out in the second half. The mindset is can we.” go out there and do our best for the entire game.”
NOTES: DT Arik Armstead (foot, ankle) stayed out of practice and LT Trent Williams was given a rest day. … DE Samson Ebukam (Quadriceps, Achilles) was limited in practice. … Coach Kyle Shanahan said it’s possible DT Javon Kinlaw (knee) could make a return during IR’s three-game homestand.