Pressure Is on for the Undefeated Niners

With the Baltimore Raven’s electrifying offense dismantling the undefeated defense of the New England Patriots the San Francisco 49ers find themselves as the last undefeated team in the league. The pressure is on for the undefeated Niners. It is a pressure this franchise isn’t used to; can they stand up to the heat?

The Last Undefeated Team Standing

Who Could Have Seen This Coming?

The short answer: no one. Nobody saw such a meteoric rise coming for San Francisco. Can you blame them after the Niners abysmal 2018 season with only four wins? Now, only halfway through the season, San Francisco has already doubled its last season performance. The big, bad boys out of the Bay sit comfortably at the top of their division at 8-0. The division leaders are also topping team efficiency ratings with a total DVOA of 46.3 percent. 

Kyle Shanahan and his team are gearing up to take on their toughest divisional opponent yet. Under this head coach’s leadership, the Niner’s have historically struggled against divisional opponents. But after a dominating performance from their defense against defending the NFC Champions Los Angeles Rams back in week six and a hard-fought victory over the Arizona Cardinals, the Niners have become the team to beat out of the NFC West. A week from tonight it will be a battle between the potential MVP Russell Wilson and a San Francisco defense that was shockingly underwhelming in this past Thursday’s matchup. 

San Francisco’s Main Pressure Point

This season has been one long highlight reel for 49ers’ defense. Incredible management by defensive coordinator Robert Saleh combined with fresh, young talent in defensive end Nick Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner under the veteran leadership of players like cornerback Richard Sherman has been a major key to their successful season. According to DVOA ratings, the San Francisco defense has been in a consistent back and forth with the New England defense for the top defense in the league. 

The Ravens delivered a devastating blow to the Patriots’ defense last night in their 37-20 victory, New England’s first loss of the season. But, don’t think Saleh and his men are celebrating just yet. After their disappointing showing against Arizona this Thursday there was one thing very clear to this franchise: it’s not enough to just win. 

In the postgame press conference, Sherman didn’t hold back his frustrations with the defensive performance despite their win over Arizona. 

“It’s never about the results. Thank goodness our offense executed. But it’s about the process,” said Sherman. “It’s humbling. It’s humbling for the defense. We’ve got a tough game against Seattle next week, so yeah. You’ve got to tighten things up.”

They Need to Tame the Offense

Sherman and his defense allowed the Cardinals 357 yards, the most they’ve allowed all season. Rookie quarterback Kyler Murray was a threat in the pocket according to San Francisco’s own DeForest Buckner who told reporters Murray “was like a little squirrel back there. It was hard to keep him contained.”

Murray’s mobility allowed him to throw for two touchdowns and 241 yards. When it comes to pinning down an offense, the defensive side coming out of San Francisco has its work cut out for them. They must prepare to take on the top quarterback of the NFC West  Russell Wilson before they’re back to take on Murray and the Cardinals once again the following week.

If they hope to keep their undefeated streak alive it is going to be on the defense to dismantle the Seattle offense that has averaged 27.6 points per game this season and is currently ranked third in the league for offensive efficiency. 

For a defense that typically only allows 241 yards per game, the outlandish performance against Arizona shouldn’t have San Francisco fans too worried. But the coaching staff is making sure nobody is taking their undefeated record for granted. 

“We’re real excited about 8-0 but that doesn’t mean anything,” said Shanahan.

Not All Bad News in the Bay

“I thought Jimmy played a hell of a game,” said Shanahan.  “That was his best game yet probably.” 

You can take all of the guesswork out of it. Jimmy Garoppolo without a doubt put on his best performance of the 2019 season up against the Cardinals this Thursday. Garoppolo threw for four touchdowns and 317 passing yards. He maintained a completion rate of 75.7 percent, 3.9 percent above his overall 2019 season average. For the 2019 season, the Niners’ QB has a QBR of 69.1. For this one matchup against the Cardinals, his QBR shot up to 92.2

There was no shortage of praise for ‘Jimmy G’ in the post-game press conference. Teammates and coaches were hailing his efforts as a saving grace for the franchise. Even wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders couldn’t take all the credit when the questions came pouring in about the offensive performance. Sanders had a great game catching seven passes for 112 yards and a touchdown as the first half came to a close. 

“I couldn’t even take the credit,” said Sanders. “I couldn’t even pound my chest all I just had to point at Jimmy.” 

Overall, the Niners were able to take home the win because they were the most efficient offense on the field. They ended off the night with 411 yards, averaging 6 yards per play. They are going to need to keep this efficiency consistent as they enter into preparation for the Seattle Seahawks defense they’ll Monday Night. 

The good news for San Francisco is that the Seattle defense is also coming off of a lackluster performance from this weekend’s way-to-close-for comfort win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in overtime. Garoppolo and his passing offense can prove to be a real weapon against this defense that just gave up 319 passing yards. 

Only Time Will Tell 

This season’s unexpected underdog are entering the toughest leg of their regular season schedule. Their journey so far hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. They are battle-tested and eager to fix any mistakes in their process. 

Without the added pressure of keeping in step with the dynastic Super Bowl favorites out in New England, the San Francisco 49ers could make the most out of their status as the last undefeated team in the league. From pretenders to contenders, all eyes are on the undefeated Niners.

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