— Ryan Gorcey (@RyanGorcey) October 28, 2019
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As Nick Bosa rose from his third sack of the day on the Panthers’ Kyle Allen — his team-leading seventh of the season — he eschewed his traditional modest shrug celebration for a wild gesticulation, shaking his hands as if they were on fire.
There was still a minute to go in the first half. The 49ers’ defense engulfed him. The Levi’s Stadium crowd chanted his name.
San Francisco is used to having play-calling geniuses and offensive innovators. Having a dominant defense with a game-wrecking defender like Bosa is something new. They haven’t had both in decades, but they did in Sunday’s 51-13 win over Carolina, a win which should convince the last remaining skeptics that 7-0 San Francisco is for real.
“I’m happy,” Bosa said, without cracking a smile, or changing inflection. “I’m super happy.”
Carolina (4-3) averaged just 3.9 yards per play as the 49ers (7-0) held their fourth straight opponent under 100 passing yards and racked up seven sacks, with four of those coming on third down. Two of those third-down sacks belonged to Bosa, who became the fifth player in the last 20 years to post 7.0 sacks in their first eight career games and leads all rookies in the category. On Sunday, he became the only 49er ever with three sacks and an interception in a single game.
“It was pretty damn impressive,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said.
“He’s everything you could ask for,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, who made the case for Bosa to not just be defensive rookie of the year, but defensive player of the year. “If it wasn’t for the ankle injury, everyone would’ve saw him early on in the preseason, but he didn’t get to play the preseason. Everybody’s like, ‘Oh my God, he’s the number two pick, he hasn’t played,’ but when he came in here, if you watched him from Day 1 like we got to, he pays like a 10-year vet.”
On his first sack of the day, Bosa over-ran Allen by five yards, planted his foot on the 20-yard line, reversed field, lost tackle Daryl Williams and got Allen from behind.
“A part of maturity in rushing is understanding where you are in the rush, so he understood where he was in his rush, and he has the athletic ability to stick that foot in the ground and make the play,” Ford said. “That’s next-level stuff. Most guys have to mature into that.”
Allen came into Sunday having not lost a game or thrown a pick in his two seasons in the NFL. He threw three against San Francisco, all leading to scores. Emmanuel Moseley’s rip from receiver Curtis Samuel in the first quarter led to the second of running back Tevin Coleman’s four touchdowns on the day — a 10-yard pass from Jimmy Garoppolo — and a near pick-six by Sherman in the third quarter (he settled for his third interception of the season) led to Coleman’s fourth score — a one-yard run.
At the end of the third quarter, Bosa picked off an Allen screen to the left and nearly took it to the house, stiff-arming DJ Moore, then side-stepping Allen before finally tripping over Moore to halt a 47-yard return. That led to a 18-yard Robbie Gould field goal to make it 44-13.
“They had been cutting us a little bit on pass,” Bosa said. “He got me on a play before, cut me really good. So, just played the cut that time and saw the quarterback’s eyes and just jumped. Then, it went right into my hands.”
Having held opponents to 7-for-41 on third down over the previous four games, San Francisco held the Panthers to 2-of-12 on the day, and while the No. 2 defense in the NFL was as expected, the 49ers offense — which couldn’t find the end zone last week in Washington — scored the most points by the franchise since beating the Lions 55-17 on Dec. 19, 1993.
Coming into the game 30th in the league in passing attempts but second in rushing yards per game, San Francisco was almost completely balanced against the league’s No. 8 passing defense while the first team was in, throwing 17 first-half passes and rushing 16 times before the break. Much of that balance was due to new acquisition Emmanuel Sanders.
Finally with a piece he’d coveted for eight years, Shanahan was at his playcalling best. Able to use the speedy slot to draw double coverage, Shanahan opened up George Kittle (who had six catches for 86 yards on National Tight End Day) and the run game (232 rushing yards).
Garoppolo (18-for-22, 175 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) found Sanders twice in the first half for third-down conversions and hit him on a check-down stick route for San Francisco’s first score of the day on an 11-play, 75-yard first-quarter drive.
Tevin Coleman rushed for 105 yards and three of his four touchdowns on 11 carries. He out-gained the Panthers in the first half, rushing for 91 yards compared to Carolina’s 76 net yards of total offense, and polished off the second quarter with a 48-yard touchdown to put San Francisco up 27-3.
In the first four minutes of the third, Garoppolo was sacked by Bruce Irvin for a safety over rookie Justin Skule, the Panthers added a 40-yard Christian McCaffrey touchdown and then got a controversial two-point conversion by McCaffrey to cut a 24-point lead to 14.
On the ensuing drive, though, Shanahan drew up a jet sweep for rookie receiver Deebo Samuel, who took it 20 yards for San Francisco’s third score on its first three red zone trips (they finished with points in four of five trips). Coleman’s one-yard run and the Gould field goal gave the 49ers breathing room, and with 6:30 to go, backup quarterback Nick Mullens entered. He handed off to Raheem Mostert, who tacked on a 41-yard score to hit the 50-point mark.
“We’re playing without our starting tackles, without our starting fullback and a starting corner,” Sherman said. “You wouldn’t notice.”