The San Francisco 49ers have one game to go and important postseason positioning to play for in Week 18. The team will host the Arizona Cardinals (4-12) to close out the regular season with the No. 1 seed in the NFC still in play. A win guarantees the 49ers at least the second seed, and depending on where the rest of the top contenders in the conference shake out, they could make the jump to the top of the playoff standings.
DeMeco Ryans and the defense outstanding play have been an integral part of San Francisco's favorable playoff position, and in order to help their cause moving forward, the defensive coordinator wants his unit to get back to their stingy ways in Week 18. The defensive unit has allowed 30 or more points twice this season and just once in their current winning streak, most recently in their 37-34 overtime win against the Las Vegas Raiders.
"It definitely wasn't representative of who we are. Guys knew that while the game was going on," Ryans said. "They knew what we needed to fix. The thing there is, we have to play better in the backend. With our eyes, the eye discipline cost us some really big plays... Our guys understand that we have to get better there if we want to continue to play good defense."
It was of course a huge play by the defense during overtime that all but sealed the game for San Francisco. Defensive lineman Nick Bosa delivered a key pressure that sent an offensive lineman colliding into Raiders quarterback Jarrett Stidham. His pass was then picked off and returned for 56 yards by safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. The huge return set up the game-winning 23-yard field goal by veteran Robbie Gould to secure the team's ninth-straight win.
"That was very satisfying," Bosa said about the pressure in overtime. "Just to see the ball go up in the air like that in a game that we never really stopped the bleeding. To stop it there was a good time."
The 49ers defense has high standards, and despite giving up a few more points than usual in Week 17, the unit enters the regular season finale averaging a mere 16.5 points per contest (No. 1 in scoring defense). This weekend, the defensive unit will look to make a bounce back against a Cardinals team that has been dealt its fare share of unfortunate injuries at the quarterback position and who has several of its key playmakers in question for their final game of the year.
Arizona will have quarterback David Blough under center, and per the team, the quarterback will be without wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins who is done for the year with a knee issue. He is expected have wideout Marquise "Hollywood" Brown as his main target while running back James Conner and receiver Robbie Anderson's availabilities are still up in the air.
"I'm focused on our guys and cleaning up what we need to clean up defensively," Ryans said. "It really doesn't matter who you play. If your eyes aren't right, if you aren't rushing with proper awareness, it doesn't matter who you play... We have to do our jobs better."