Run the ball and play good defense. It’s a tried and true approach that’s resulted in winning football since the inception of the sport, and for the 2019 San Francisco 49ers, it’s the formula that’s been the foundation of the team’s first 4-0 start since 1990.
The Niners are currently averaging 200 rushing yards per game, which is number one in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens are just behind them at 192.2, but there’s a huge discrepancy after that. The next closest team, the Minnesota Vikings, are 33.6 yards behind at 166.4.
And it hasn’t just been one running back carrying the load for Kyle Shanahan’s group. Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman are all averaging 5.5 yards per carry or higher, and have combined for 696 yards on 115 carries (6.05 yards per attempt).
While all three backs have performed well, the undrafted Breida continues to be a revelation, as he’s now eclipsed the 100-yard mark four times in his last nine games. He currently leads the NFL with a 6.5 yards per carry average.
On defense, it’s been the pass rush that’s made all the difference, as defensive ends Nick Bosa and Dee Ford have helped to transform the unit in their first season with San Francisco.
In Week 5, Bosa looked like the best player on the field despite the fact that he was playing in just his fourth NFL game. Bosa was the first 49ers player in the last 25 years to record two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in a single game. He also added four solo tackles and five quarterback hits.
Bosa, Ford, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead have combined for 10 sacks in the first quarter of the season, and the pressure they’ve provided have helped Robert Saleh’s defensive record 11 turnovers. That number is simply astonishing when you consider the 49ers forced only seven turnovers all of last year.
As a whole, the defense ranks in the top five in points allowed per game (14.2), net yards per pass attempt (5.0), scoring percentage (21.3%), sack percentage (9.2%), and turnovers (11). It’s been a dominating overall effort.
The best part about what the 49ers are doing is that this brand of football is built to last. As long the things stay status quo, there’s no reason that Shanahan, Saleh and company can’t sustain their winning ways deep into the season and beyond.