In 2019 football is about one thing — offense. It's about airing it out. It’s about getting creative with sexy play-calls. It’s about young air-raid quarterbacks.
That’s how you win in the modern NFL. The days of three-yards and a cloud of dust are done.
The San Francisco 49ers are flipping that theory on its head and bringing back smash-mouth football to 2019 and it’s working. The 49ers are now 4-0 and it’s not because of their high powered offense. It’s not because of their innovative play-calls and it’s not because they haven’t played anyone.
The 49ers are undefeated because of their power-run game and unrelenting defense.
The 49ers battered Baker Mayfield and ran the ball down the Cleveland Browns throat on Monday Night Football to seal their first 4-0 start since 1990.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said running the ball and playing good defense is “the easiest way to win.” and he’s right— tonight’s win against the 49ers so-called "first real test" of the season looked easy.
The game seemed over before it began. Matt Breida took a carry from Jimmy Garoppolo on the opening play from the 17-yard line and never looked back. An 83-yard house call on the first play. That was only the start for Brieda’s day— he rushed for 114 yards with 2 total touchdowns.
Breida wasn’t the only 49ers back to run wild against the Browns. Tevin Coleman returned from injury and scurried for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Mark that 275 rushing yards vs. the Browns defense that’s littered with big names. Myles Garrett, Sheldon Richardson and Oliver Vernon were all kept quiet by the 49ers offensive line that is still missing Joe Staley. The 49ers offensive line gave up two sacks but paved the way in the run game.
Rookie 6th round pick Justin Skule turned in another clean performance in Staley’s absence. Breida said “that’s why he’s here,” about the rookie from Vanderbilt. “He’s going to play in the NFL for a long time.”
Flip to the other side of the football and what really can’t you say about the 49ers defense? After limiting Mayfield to 100 yards passing, two interceptions and a fumble lost it’s safe to say they’ve stamped their arrival as an elite defense.
Rookie Nick Bosa was the wire-to-wire number one player in the 2019 draft class and to say he’s been as advertised it would be an understatement.
Shanahan said every time he looked up Bosa was making a play. Bosa dominated with 2 sacks, 5 quarterback hits, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. After Bosa sacked Mayfield, he celebrated by planting a flag into the turf of Levi’s Stadium mocking Mayfield’s celebration back when Mayfield's Oklahoma Sooners beat Bosa's Ohio State Buckeye's in the horseshoe.
Bosa’s celebration may get some headlines, but his most impressive play was the sack itself. Bosa blew up a double team and put Pro Bowl guard, Joel Bitonio on his back, then climbed over him to sack Mayfield.
Bosa was the spearhead but the 49ers entire defense looked merciless. From the secondary to defensive line each unit played flawlessly. Shanahan said that he was proud of how the defense played great for from the first play to the last.
49ers cornerback Richard Sherman wasn't keen on Mayfield's decision not to shake his hand pregame, calling it "bush league." Ultimately, though, Sherman and the 49ers got the last laugh.
The 49ers are 4-0 but still, have one-hump to get over and that’s the defending NFC champion, Los Angeles Rams. Good thing we won’t have to wait long as the 49ers travel to Southern California next week for their first NFC West tilt.