Why Nick Bosa’s torn ACL is biggest blow to 49ers’ Super Bowl pursuit

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The 49ers’ defensive improvement last season couldn’t solely be attributed to edge rusher Nick Bosa, but he arguably was as responsible as anyone else.

Bosa compiled nine sacks in his first season, winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and emerging as the centerpiece of the 49ers’ suddenly elite pass rush. The 49ers tied for fifth in sacks last season (48) after drafting Bosa and trading for Dee Ford. San Francisco was tied for the fifth-fewest (37) in 2018.

But with Bosa missing the rest of the season with a torn ACL, the 49ers’ biggest defensive strength a season ago now is a question mark.

“Bosa’s the killer there,” Mike Florio said Monday morning on “Pro Football Talk,” referring to the 49ers’ spate of injuries in Week 2 against the New York Jets. “Because Bosa is the guy who changed that team last year. He transformed that defense, he helped that pass rush reach the next level so you don’t have to worry about the back end, because the quarterback is too worried about being thrown on his back end. Now without Bosa, you lose that. And that’s what’s gonna be the killer for the 49ers.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed Monday afternoon the 49ers agreed to terms with edge rusher Ziggy Ansah, who has a pair of seasons with double-digit sacks to his name. Whether or not Ford plays in Week 3 against the New York Giants, Kerry Hyder likely will be called into action. Hyder played 80 percent of the defensive snaps in Week 2 compared to just shy of 46 percent in Week 1 when Bosa and Ford both were healthy.

Still, Hyder and Ansah should have soft landings while acclimating to their newfound roles. The 49ers’ next three opponents are a combined 0-6, but the schedule quickly becomes unforgiving after that.

“[It’s] already starting to get to the point where it’s starting to make me think, can they sustain this?’ ” Chris Simms observed to Florio. “How big of a player are they going to be in the NFC this year? They’ve got a very favorable schedule — (New York) Giants, (Philadelphia) Eagles, (Miami) Dolphins gives them a few weeks to at least get them healthy before they start a brutal stretch with the (New England) Patriots (in Week 7) and (Los Angeles) Rams there starting in Week 6.”

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Aside from Bosa, the 49ers could get a bit healthier sooner rather than later. Shanahan told reporters Monday that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t been ruled out against the Giants after leaving early in Week 2 with an ankle injury, and tight end George Kittle will join the 49ers on their road trip. Cornerback Richard Sherman also is eligible to return from injured reserve in Week 5.

Those returns will go a long way toward the 49ers maintaining their perch atop the NFC, but losing Bosa might prove to be too much to overcome all on its own.


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