DeMeco Ryans takes next-game approach into pivotal NFC West clash

Dec 14, 2022, 9:00 AM

| Updated: 9:04 am
Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans of the San Francisco 49ers on the sideline during the game again...

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 21: Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans of the San Francisco 49ers on the sideline during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Estadio Azteca on November 21, 2022 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers’ defense has been the best unit in football the last six weeks. Holding teams to 17 points or under in that time span, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has his unit rivaling the infamous 2000 Baltimore Ravens, a team that finished the new century as Super Bowl Champions.

First, the 49ers have to lock up the NFC West, getting their preliminary chance Thursday night against a division rival, the Seattle Seahawks. Eerily similar to 2019, the players expect it to be an intense battle, with both teams unwilling to give an inch.

“We’re definitely expecting an all-out war,” defensive end Nick Bosa said Tuesday. “Probably really similar to 2019. Just really big stakes and two teams that know each other really well and don’t particularly like each other.”

While the bitterness of rivalry over the years lingers, that’s not Ryans’s focus. He prefers to treat each week as a fresh start, regardless of the opponent. For him, this week happens to be in Seattle. The expectations are still the same, go out there and compete to finish 1-0 on the week.

“Not for me. For me, it’s the next game that we have to win, so I don’t see it as much as a rivalry as like, this is our next opponent. They’re in our division. We know how much this game means for where we want to go down the road, so it’s a big game for that reason because it’s the next one,” DeMeco Ryans explained at his Tuesday press conference.

Whether the coach likes it or not, comparisons will still be made to the Week 17 game almost three years ago.

In that matchup, the 49ers emerged victorious 26-21 after a goal-line stop by linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner forced Seattle to turn the ball over on downs. The pair have only gotten better since then, especially the former, amassing 100 tackles in a season for the first time in his career last Sunday.

Warner mentioned it previously that the Arkansas standout deserves Pro Bowl recognition, his coach reaffirmed that statement this week.

“I think Dre is playing as one of the best linebackers in the NFL right now,” DeMeco Ryans stated. “First off, when you talk about the speed that play where he’s running down [Miami Dolphins WR] Tyreek [Hill], show me another linebacker doing that. The interceptions he’s made, just his play is just all over the field, the tackling ability in space. He’s probably one of the most confident guys in space in tackling who I have confidence in when the ball is thrown and there’s a lot of space. If Dre is out there, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s getting that guy down. Dre is playing with very high confidence, he’s playing fast, physical and I love the enthusiasm that he’s playing with out there, because he’s making a ton of plays, which creates that enthusiasm. He is all over the field making plays each and every week for us, and Dre is having his best year of his career. He just has to keep going.”

With those two heat-seeking missiles in the middle of the field, Thursday night could be a harsh reality for a reeling Seahawks team that needs a win to stay alive in NFC playoff race.



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