The 49ers' defense is dominating when it matters most — the 2nd half of games

Brock Purdy has been great, but San Fran's defense is winning games

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Seattle’s DK Metcalf bobbles a catch against Charvarius Ward during the third quarter in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Levi’s Stadium on Jan. 14, 2023, in Santa Clara, California.
Seattle’s DK Metcalf bobbles a catch against Charvarius Ward during the third quarter in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Levi’s Stadium on Jan. 14, 2023, in Santa Clara, California.
Image: Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers are hot. Winners of 11 in a row and doing most of it with a rookie seventh-round pick at quarterback, this Niners squad is the most dangerous team in the postseason. Despite the outstanding play of Brock Purdy, San Francisco’s success has been possible due to their stifling defense. During the last half of the season, this defense has made its mark where it matters most, in the second half of games.

San Francisco’s defense did it again to Seattle in Saturday’s wildcard matchup, holding the Seahawks to six points in the second half, and those came late in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided. The Seahawks led 17-16 at halftime and ultimately lost 41-23. There’s something about this Niners defense that clicks at intermission, and they come out fired up for the last two quarters.

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Something changed in Week 7 for the 49ers

Since the Week 7 blowout loss to Kansas City, San Francisco’s defense has been relentless. Following the Chiefs’ loss, the 49ers pitched four consecutive second-half shutouts. The Niners beat the Rams, Cardinals, Chargers, and Saints in those games. The Saints’ win was a complete shutout in a 13-0 final.

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They followed that up by holding Miami, Tampa Bay, and Seattle to seven second-half points in consecutive games. It wasn’t until the final two games of the year that the Commanders and Raiders were able to score double-digit second-half points against the Niners, but still wound up losing. Even in the few games the defense has seemed out of sorts, they find a way to lock in and come up with a big play.

In Saturday’s wildcard game against the Seahawks, the turning point was a big play when Geno Smith was stripped of the ball, and Nick Bosa pounced on it. That was a huge third down play late in the third quarter, with the 49ers up just six points with the Seahawks in the red zone. That play changed the course of this game, and San Francisco never looked back.

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If it’s close at halftime against San Francisco, the odds of their opponent winning are slim, thanks to the defense. That should be a warning to all NFC teams, including the Philadelphia Eagles. You’ve got to get up on this team early and force them to fight from far behind. But obviously, that’s a task much easier said than done.