49ers Replicate Playoff Contender’s Blueprint in Thrashing of Rams

Nick Bosa

Getty Nick Bosa stretches out his right arm to disrupt Matthew Stafford's throw during the 49ers' Monday Night Football game on November 15.

Los Angeles Rams legend Jim Everett sent the memo after the Tennessee Titans game: Teams are going to repeat what the AFC playoff contender accomplished in beating the Rams.

Sure enough, it didn’t take long for the San Francisco 49ers to replicate Tennessee’s approach.

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The only difference between the Titans and 49ers? The former won by 12, the latter dominated from the jump and rolled to the 31-10 stomping of their bitter NFC West rival.

But in closely scrutinizing the 49ers’ defense, the approach to smack the Rams was eerily similar to what Tennessee did. And it was the same blueprint Everett — who took the Rams to three playoff appearances including the 1990 NFC title game appearance against the 49ers — feared would be repeated. Here’s a dive:

Takeaways Set the Tone

In the Titans’ win, Tennessee went after Matthew Stafford right away with four-man pressure on the opening drive and collected two sacks — forcing the early punt.

There were no sacks in the opening possession. But still, rushing a quartet of defenders caused the early Stafford interception to Jimmie Ward.

The men who helped force Stafford to move out of his designated plant and throw area? Defensive end Nick Bosa and defensive tackle D.J. Jones. Bosa gains enough penetration on the right side of the Rams to force Stafford to redirect while Jones takes on two blockers five yards past the line of scrimmage as Stafford looked for a comfortable spot to throw, but threw the ball into the Bay Area fog for the pick.

Then in the second defensive possession, the 49ers joined the Titans in executing this against the high-powered Rams offense: Score on them.

Here, the 49ers crowd the line of scrimmage but brings four on a designed tight end screen to Tyler Higbee. Ward knifes through Cooper Kupp to snatch the bobbled football and turns it into six.

NFL.com writer Nick Shook was one who caught shades of Tennessee’s approach in the 49ers’ defense:

“San Francisco replicated Tennessee’s game-swinging performance from a week earlier with two early interceptions, including a second that — like Kevin Byard’s in Week 9 — was returned for a touchdown,” Shook wrote in his column.

Takeaways weren’t just the only repeated idea against the Rams.

Dominating the Gap Lettered ‘B’

As Everett pointed out, the Titans sent their most pressure through the gaps between the center and guards.

The “B’ gap saw the most rotation of defenders — and where the 49ers wrecked the most trench havoc.

Per Pro Football Focus, five different 49ers lined up in that gap. Jones took the most snaps between the guard and tackle with 18, followed by Arik Armstead with 17 defensive plays inside. Kentavius Street, Arden Key and Kevin Givens also lined up inside.

Of the three, the edge defender Key snatched this sack of Stafford by slicing through the “B” gap.

Quarterback pressure wasn’t the only win from this interior spot. So was stuffing the run. The Rams mustered just 52 ground yards — and none came up left guard David Edwards’ side and 21 came on the side of Austin Corbett per PFF.

Outside of the inside, Bosa did his damage once again against tackles…including fighting off this neck ring and cloth grab by Rob Havenstein.

And Bosa is officially on his way to a career-year.

Praise went to the Front Seven

Ward delivered a career night and joked with former 49er Donte Whitner how he was going to use a 24-hour rule to celebrate his takeaways. However, he gave an important shout out to two groups that rewarded him with his huge night.

Before the MNF game, there was this idea for the 49ers from last week’s Sunday Night Football matchup. The ‘Niners replicated, bullied and pulverized the Rams offense…using the exact same approach the AFC’s best team pulled the previous week.

It was a defensive effort so dominating, that hard-hitting 49ers legend Ronnie Lott took a liking to it.

The Hall of Famer Lott also gave praise to DeMeco Ryans on Twitter for the brilliantly executed plan.

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