San Francisco 49ers fans, he did it again: When the chips were down and Justin Herbert’s Los Angeles Chargers were driving down six with 49 seconds to go, who came flying from the defensive backfield to end the drive with a game-clinching interception but Talanoa Hufanga, the team’s 2021 fifth-round pick who has rapidly become one of the top safeties in the NFL.
After having already rallied back from a three-point deficit as late as the first drive of the fourth quarter, Talanoa kept things from getting a bit too interesting with under a minute to go and guaranteed that the two teams would leave Levi Stadium with the very same 5-4 record.
While Hufanga’s night wasn’t perfect, as by his own admission he gave up a touchdown in coverage, his game-winning interception marked his fourth of the season, which is the most by a 49ers player, let alone a safety since 2014, when Antoine Bethea had four and Perrish Cox had five for Vic Fangio’s defense. Fortunately, with eight games left to play, Hufanga has a real chance at the 49ers’ all-time interception record, 10, which was set by Dave Baker and Ronnie Lott in 1960 and 1986, respectively.
A tough bar to clear? Most certainly, but if anyone can do it, it’s Hufanga.
Hufanga Credits DeMeco Ryans for the 49ers’ Success
Speaking with reporters after the win, Hufanga was asked what it is about DeMeco Ryans that makes the Niners’ defense so good, and his response will make fans happy.
“I’d probably described him in one word as poised,” Hufanga said. “You know, he has a lot of poise coming into the locker room, a lot of D coordinators, you know, if they’re trailing, if you’re up, they’re really tight or upbeat but he’s a guy who comes in there with a big smile on his face and you’re like, we could be down 30, big smile. A guy who understands that we can change the game on defense any way possible. So the poise in the locker room, it just brings all of these guys together and builds our confidence up so we can go out there and make plays.”
Already being tabbed as one of the hottest names on the 2023 coach-in-waiting short list, fans should appreciate what the former Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker brings to the table while they can, as he might not be back in 2023.
Bosa Isn’t the Only 49er With Defensive Player of the Year Odds
Are you so impressed with how Hufanga has played so far this year that you’d like to place a wager on him winning Defensive Player of the Year? If so, you’re in luck, as Nick Bosa isn’t the only San Francisco player with betting odds to win DPOY honors, according to Sports Betting Dime.
That’s right, while Bosa is currently second to win the honor at +900 behind only Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, Hufanga is also on the list, tied with Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick for the 14th-best odds at +6000. Even if betting on Bosa is safer, it’s at least encouraging to see that Hufanga’s name is in the conversation, which isn’t the case for many other second-year ex-fifth-round picks.