Nick Bosa says San Francisco 49ers defense has the personnel to be ‘the best in the league’

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Just as he wouldn’t when given a clear path to an opposing quarterback, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa didn’t hesitate Monday night when he was told asked what could be the ceiling of this Niners defense.

“I think it’s the best in the league,” Bosa said. “It’s a bit of our mindset every year, and this year we have the staff to do it. Not that we haven’t done it in the past, but only the three levels are players of elite.”

Considering what the Niners defense did to NFC West rival Los Angeles Rams in Monday night’s 24-9 win — on top of what they accomplished in the first four weeks of the season – Bosa’s belief is backed by plenty of evidence.

The Niners have won seven straight regular season games against the Rams, although they lost the most significant game between the teams in January’s NFC Championship Game. It’s their longest winning streak against the Rams since winning 17 straight regular-season games from 1990-1998.

Against those Rams, who came in with a battered inside offensive line and became increasingly reliant on receiver Cooper Kupp, the Niners didn’t quite get a shutout. But they got closer.

The Rams have reached the red zone three times but have settled for a field goal on each trip and, for the first time in 25 starts for quarterback Matthew Stafford since joining Los Angeles in 2021, the Rams have not not scored an offensive touchdown.

Bosa and his teammates were all over Stafford for most of the game, racking up 17 pressures (the second since Stafford became a Ram) and sacking him seven times. Bosa accounted for two sacks and nine pressures, as he leads the league in both categories with six and 23 respectively.

The Rams passed just 257 yards on offense and averaged 3.5 yards per play. Even in a game that was within a score for most of the night, the Niners offense had the l impression that the defense always had things under control.

“Honestly there was a point, I think it was 14-9, and it’s not that we slack off on offense – but you trust the guys on defense,” the quarterback said. Jimmy Garoppolo. “These guys, I don’t watch them much, but the couple play I see is hell for the quarterback. I love having them by my side, I hate playing them in practice. , but it makes us better so it’s a good group there. They’re tough.

To put the finishing touches on the evening’s performance, San Francisco’s defense was also finally able to generate some takeaways. Last week, Bosa and linebacker Fred Warner lamented the lack of turnovers (the Niners had a total in their two losses) and said that would be the next step for the defense to make the leap from good to great.

Emerging sophomore safety Talanoa Hufanga delivered one of those at the right time, pulling out a screen pass from Stafford and returning it 52 yards for a touchdown with 6:27 left to extend San’s lead. Francisco.

It was the Niners’ fourth pick in the last six regular-season meetings with the Rams, as they’ve had at least one in each of the past four seasons.

“That was the difference,” Warner said. “It was a close game all the way, we played decent defense and kept them out of the end zone, but we knew to take it and win the game we had to get the ball back and we got it. do.”

Fittingly, defensive end Samson Ebukam put the game aside with 1:58 left with the team’s seventh sack, forcing Stafford to fumble as defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. recovered.

And while Monday’s performance may have been the most complete for the Niners’ defense, it was just the latest in a series of dominating performances. For four weeks, San Francisco leads the NFL in points allowed per game (11.5), yards per game (234.5, tied with Buffalo), sacks per recoil (10%) and yards per game (3.81), among other categories.

All for a group that expects starting safety Jimmie Ward to return from a hamstring injury this week and cornerback Jason Verrett to return soon from a knee injury.

“I don’t think they’ve allowed 20 points in a game so far this year,” tight end George Kittle said. “That means as long as we score 21 points per game, we are going to win football games. It’s just up to us to score points and keep the football.”

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