The 49ers’ secondary redeemed itself in the second half of San Francisco’s 30-23 Week 2 win over the Los Angeles Rams Sunday at SoFi Stadium, but there were first-half pain points that concern NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Donte Whitner.
Matthew Stafford and the Rams’ offense controlled the clock in the first half and picked apart the 49ers’ defense. The veteran quarterback completed 14 of his 18 attempts for 143 yards before the break. Overall, Stafford went 34-of-55 for 307 yards, while rookie wideout Puka Nacua had 147 receiving yards on a NFL rookie record 15 receptions.
What the Rams were able to do to the 49ers through the air could give the NFC’s best team a blueprint for future matchups this season.
“The 49ers are going to regret not re-signing Emmanuel Moseley and Jimmie Ward because this defensive back group could be the 49ers’ downfall against NFC powerhouse teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, who have phenomenal talent at wide receiver receiver,” Whitner said on the latest “Hitner’s Hot Take” segment. “I’m very sure about Charvarius Ward, not so sure about Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir.”
Facing the salary cap, the 49ers let Moseley and Ward leave in free agency earlier this year, with the former signing a two-year contract with the Detroit Lions and the latter signing a two-year contract with the Houston Texans.
In doing so, the 49ers cashed in on Lenoir, Thomas and Isaiah Oliver, who solidified the cornerback position along with Charvarius Ward.
The 49ers already had to make adjustments at nickel back during their Week 1 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the first half against the Rams looked like a continuation of those struggles.
But the position group turned things around in the second half against the Rams, as Lenoir and Oliver each recorded interceptions to help seal the 49ers’ victory.
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With a dominant front seven and solid safeties in Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson Sr., the 49ers’ cornerbacks will need to raise their level as the season progresses if the team wants to reach its goal.
But if the unit struggles in the coming weeks, the 49ers now have the salary cap space to make a move before the NFL trade deadline to address the issue.