Robert Saleh Believes the Run Defense “Not as bad as it looks”
Going up against the defense of the San Francisco 49ers causes offenses a ton of stress. It’s difficult to gameplan against them since they don’t really have an Achilles heel. That was until week nine when the Arizona Cardinals exploited the 49ers’ defense against the run.
Kenyan Drake, who just arrived a few days prior, ran all over the 49ers on Halloween night. That game started shed some light that the 49ers’ run defense isn’t too sound. However, don’t tell defensive coordinator Robert Saleh that.
“You know what, sometimes, and I guess I’m looking from a biased standpoint, but from an efficiency standpoint, and I know this is going to sound crazy, but the run game is not as bad as it looks.” Said Saleh at his presser “I think [Carolina Panthers RB Christian] McCaffrey in the second half of the blowout had a 40-yard run. Cleveland had a 40-yard run. The backs the last two weeks have averaged less than four yards per carry.”
Saleh raises excellent points regarding his defense. How they defend against the run is not really an issue. It’s more so due to the fact that running backs have reeled off enormous gains on a single run that it has skewed the stats. I’d tend to agree with Saleh on this because the run defense of the 49ers passes the eye test.
This is partly why Kyle Shanahan prefers to start a game with the ball. That way he can give his defense a lead and continue to build on that lead. Building on it will take away the running game for the opposition, so the 49ers are not seeing heavy volume against the run.
"Our worst game, by far, was Thursday night. I think that kind of got away from us, but when you look at the raw numbers, the raw numbers aren’t very good, but if you look at an efficiency standpoint and are we stopping the run when they’re giving it to the running back and all that stuff? I feel like it’s not as off as it was in year’s past. With what we are playing, yeah I guess you would say when you have leads and stuff and you’re trying to go get the quarterback, a run could sneak out on you.”
Other than week nine, they have been solid against the run. They’re going to have to be come Sunday night when the Packers come to town. The Packers average 5.4 yards per carry on runs up the middle behind the center and guard, which is No. 1 in the NFL via Football Outsiders. This team needs to be prepared for the Iso runs that the Packers are sure to dial up.
The Packers are not a run heavy offense, but when they do utilize the ground game they are lethal. Aaron Jones is a handful both as a runner and a receiver. Jamal Williams can also cause some concern for the defense. At least for the 49ers' defense, they are getting D.J. Jones back to help plug up the middle better. On the surface it may seem the defense is a liability against the run, but really they have been better than most think.