SANTA CLARA – Samson Ebukam couldn’t help but go wild once he saw himself on the big screen Monday night.
The officials were still reviewing the play, but he knew what he just accomplished. He delivered the curtain call for the 49ers’ a strip sack fumble just inside the two-minute warning. Ebukam’s game-sealing play was a fitting coda to a dominating defensive effort, as they held the reigning Super Bowl champ Los Angeles Rams without a touchdown, racked up seven sacks and a pick-six in a 24-9 victory at Levi’s Stadium.
“I felt it was a fumble,” Ebukam said with a smile in the locker room after his two-sack evening. “I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Ebukam’s play was a sweet way to end the night for the Niners, but you could argue it was merely icing on the cake.
49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga also turned in the game’s biggest play with 6:27 left in the fourth quarter, when he jumped a Cooper Kupp route and returned it 52 yards to the house for a score.
“You can kind of smell a rat when it comes to those things,” Hufanga said about his read on the play.
Hufanga also added, "I thought Stafford was gonna catch me. Not gonna lie."
Hufanga has been an absolute star in the San Francisco secondary in his second season out of USC, making big plays on a weekly basis. And to think that Jimmie Ward could return to Hufanga’s side next week after missing the first four games of the season with a hamstring injury.
“It’s best in the league,” said Nick Bosa of the Niners defense after his two-sack night. “That’s kind of our mindset every year and this year we have the personnel to do it. Not that we haven’t in the past but all three levels are elite players. I think the addition of Charvarius (Ward) and (Hufanga) playing at this level. Obviously, we’re gonna get Jimmie and (cornerback Jason) Verrett back, which is pretty scary.”
San Francisco dominated the line of scrimmage en route to seven sacks, their most in a game since they racked up seven against the Carolina Panthers in 2019. The franchise record? It’s 10 if you’re wondering, set on three different occasions, according to Stat Muse.
Not to mention the 49ers dropped a pair of possible interceptions, one from safety Tashaun Gipson and one from linebacker Fred Warner. In Ebukam’s eyes, the 49ers are the best defense in the league.
“Yeah I do (believe we’re the best defense in the NFL),” Ebukam said. “We still got stuff that we gotta work on. Just being here everyday, I do feel like that.”
The numbers back it up, too, as San Francisco leads the NFL in points allowed (11.5 per game) and tied for first in yards allowed (234.5). The Niners are one off the league lead with 15 sacks on the season as well.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Bosa has emerged as an early-season Defensive Player of the Year candidate, as he leads the NFL with six sacks in four games. Get ready for a lot more Jordan Shrug celebrations from Bosa this year.
Bosa, 24, is reaping the benefits of a complete offseason with no health setbacks, as he is fully past his 2020 ACL injury. Bosa said he feels like he’s putting it all together in his fourth season with the Niners.
“I think I’m still leaving a few out there,” Bosa said. “But one game at a time. When you have guys around you who are producing, it’s a lot easier on you.”
Scary to think that this defense thinks there’s room for improvement, but that’s how they’re feeling.
The team is dealing with a few injuries, though, as defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (knee soreness) didn’t play Monday and Arik Armstead (foot) had to exit the game with a few minutes left on the clock.
With the result, the 49ers and Rams joined the Cardinals and Seahawks at 2-2, as every team in the NFC West will enter Week 5 with the same record.