Nick Bosa waited two years for this moment.
A perfect 3–0 entering this week’s contest against the Browns, the 49ers’ rookie defensive end had been eagerly awaiting his meeting with Baker Mayfield, the first between the two since Mayfield’s Sooners defeated Bosa’s Buckeyes 31–16 in 2017.
A lot has happened between now and then, but Bosa hadn’t forgotten the loss, the way Mayfield celebrated by planting that Oklahoma flag into the turf at Ohio Stadium. The 2019 second-overall pick wanted his revenge.
On Monday night, he got it.
The undefeated 49ers dominated Mayfield and the Browns for a 31–3 win in primetime, improving to 4–0 on the season for the first time since 1990—thanks to Bosa’s epic performance.
In the best game of the rookie’s young pro career, Bosa repeatedly crushed Mayfield to the turf, providing a consistent spark for the 49ers defense throughout a dominant first half. The 21-year-old pass rusher pressured Mayfield into an interception on the Browns’ second drive. Two possessions later, Bosa again got into the backfield, this time to force and recover a Mayfield fumble. He registered six pressures and four quarterback hits, contributing to four total takeaways and holding Mayfield to 100 yards, two interceptions and a rating of 13.4.
By the end of the half, it was Bosa who was firmly planting his own “flag” on the outing.
He wasn’t the only 49er making his mark in the win. On his very first touch of the game, running back Matt Breida burst out of the backfield and hit 22.30 miles-per-hour on an 83-yard score, the fastest speed reached by a ball carrier on any play since the start of 2018. He finished the game with 114 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Tevin Coleman was just as effective. Returning from a two-week absence, Coleman scored his own 19-yard touchdown late in the second quarter to give the 49ers a 21–3 lead at halftime. A couple snaps before that, he converted a fourth-and-1 run into an eight-yard gain to the Browns’ 19.
Tight end George Kittle continued to prove why he’s one of the league’s best at his position, racking up 70 yards and a touchdown on six receptions on the night.
And Jimmy Garoppolo, playing in his first primetime game since Week 1 of 2016 as a member of the Patriots, stayed as consistent and steady as ever. The matchup was an opportunity for the sixth-year quarterback and second-year starter to show the rest of the league what he can do. He did, going 20-of-29 for 181 yards and two touchdowns for a 108.5 rating.
It may have been easy to write off the 49ers’ perfect start as a fluke given that their wins came over the Buccaneers, Bengals and Steelers before Week 5. And there may still be few that regard them on even footing with the presumed heavyweights in their division, especially considering just how bad Cleveland’s failures were in the outing.
But there’s no denying that San Francisco is finally clicking. The defensive line is “wreaking havoc,” just as general manager John Lynch said it would before the season. The quarterback is healthy again, proving with every win why he was worth a $137.5 million contract despite only a handful of starts.
The coach has turned a corner. The team has found its stride. And if Monday night’s performance is any indication of what’s to come, the 49ers might have a reason to believe there’s a chance to compete. That they can be a force in the NFC.
That this is their moment.
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WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the rate of interceptions in the league has been steadily trending down. Why? ... If you're waiting for one of these teams to make the postseason, don't hold your breath. ... The Miami Dolphins have gutted their roster in hopes of hoarding a number of draft picks, but Jenny Vrentas explores a key question: Can a teardown of this magnitude pay off in the NFL? ... and more.
1. The Titans have cut kicker Cairo Santos in favor of Cody Parkey. Yes, that Cody Parkey.
2. No, Jason Garrett is not on the hot seat.
3. The Jets are almost at the breaking point.
4. The Raiders got themselves a new receiver in Zay Jones.
5. Ben Watson may be without a team, but he's not ready to be done just yet.
Here's to hoping your Tuesday doesn't hit you with a Nick Bosa.
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