“The hyena” Deommodore Lenoir was on a relentless streak — beginning from opening kickoff of the Super Wild Card Weekend opener to responding to critics after the San Francisco 49ers eliminated the Seattle Seahawks 41-23 Saturday, January 14.
But along with clapping back at his critics, one fan attached this to Lenoir: The now famous Seahawks quote “They wrote me off, I didn’t write back” that became popularized by quarterback Geno Smith. To which Lenoir responded to that fan:
Smith made that statement popular among the “12th man” after guiding his Seahawks to the season opening victory over the Denver Broncos which featured former ‘Hawks franchise quarterback Russell Wilson on the opposite side. But now Lenoir, who had been criticized for his play in recent weeks, got his name linked to that Smith quote after helping send him and the Seahawks home.
Lenoir Delivered ‘Most Significant Development’ in Win, Insider Says
How impressive was the second-year cornerback from Oregon? Lenoir tied for third in tackles but ended up delivering the most solo stops among the cornerback group with four. But his biggest play came with him covering a perennial 1,000-yard receiver and past Pro Bowler in Tyler Lockett during the fourth quarter to destroy any hope of a Seattle comeback:
The Athletic’s 49ers insider David Lombardi was among those raving about Lenoir raising his level of play in the most important game of his career so far.
“Excellent game from Deommodore Lenoir. Sound technique across the board. Perhaps the most significant 49ers’ development coming from this win,” Lombardi shared.
But then came this next statement from Lombardi — which he believes completes this 49ers unit.
“If Lenoir plays well, SF doesn’t have a pronounced weakness,” Lombardi included.
Areas Where Lenoir Improved the Most
The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder again was getting ripped by fans before the playoff opener, mainly for being blamed for surrendering big plays.
Per Pro Football Reference Advanced Stats, Lenoir not only surrendered five catches in back-to-back contests but had surrendered 124 yards his side against the Las Vegas Raiders and then 96 yards in the Week 18 finale against the Arizona Cardinals. And of the two, it was the former that gave Lenoir the most problems with receiving size. And one of the passes he surrendered his way was on this acrobatic grab by Pro Bowler Davante Adams:
Lenoir was now heading to a rain-soaked Levi’s Stadium with two Pro Bowl wideouts to counter this time in the even larger behemoth D.K. Metcalf and his fellow 1,000-yard target Lockett. Plus Lenoir and the 49ers defense had to deal with a rejuvenated Smith who entered the venue with career-best numbers.
But “the hyena” stood his ground and went into hunter mode. Here’s where he improved the most:
Limited targets: Lenoir, for the last six games, was targets between five to nine times. But against Seattle? His targets dropped to four.
Lack of explosives: Before the playoff game, Lenoir was the closest coverage cornerback on A.J. Green’s 77-yard strike in Week 18 and the 45-yarder from Adams. But in the 18-point romp to open the postseason? Metcalf only managed a 12-yard reception with Lenoir his side.
Low rating, for Smith: Lenoir on the day had the ball thrown at him four times. But allowed just two catches for 16 yards per Pro Football Focus and delivered the pick. More telling, Smith had a lowly 20.8 passer rating facing Lenoir per Lombardi.
“The hyena” was unleashed. And along with reminding his critics who he is, he became the 49ers representative who was “written off, but didn’t write back.”