SANTA CLARA — The 49ers' identity has been developing for a while, but it wasn’t until their dominating 31-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons that it really reared it’s head.
It started in Week 8 after a four-game skid when the 49ers playoff hopes were on life support. With their backs against the wall, San Francisco started to get its mojo back by winning four out of their next five games, controlling the ground game and playing more efficiently.
Then after the 49ers' Week 13 loss in Seattle, they have found different ways to win, but one thing has been consistent — they are playing “bully ball.”
It was epitomized in Deebo Samuel’s third quarter blasting of Atlanta defensive back A.J. Terrell, dislodging his mouthpiece and sending it flying into the air. It was seen in Jimmie Ward’s tackle of Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson on the San Francisco 8-yard line to prevent a first-and-goal situation.
“Oh man, that's the energy boost for sure,” Jeff Wilson Jr. said of Samuel's play. "Especially, to see him have that same mentality and run like me. That’s just like candy for a baby. It is just like, give it, I want some of that. It was just him having a thrill, and the player he is. He's a tremendous player and he is only getting started. So that was very good.”
The 49ers are going to hit other teams in the mouth and offer no apologies. Through all four quarters, the 49ers delivered physical play on both sides of the ball. Defenders were motivated by the type of hits the offense was delivering and vice versa.
George Kittle is an advocate of delivering legal physical blows on opposing players and loves how his team has become a bunch of bullies on the field.
“We want to be physical,” Kittle said. "You got to make them feel it. When you have the opportunity with the ball in your hands to run through a guys face it really shows what type of guys they are playing against. I thought our offense played very physical today.”
Jimmy Garoppolo might not have delivered huge hits on Falcons defenders but he never shies away from diving up over the center for a quarterback sneak. The play caller loved seeing the physicality from the entire team, from Trent Williams to Jaquiski Tartt.
“It was tremendous,” Garoppolo said. “It starts with the O-line, they set the tone. The guys were hitting today. It was physical. You could feel it from the defense too. I saw Quaski have one on Matt Ryan at the goal line. That’s the style of football we play and when people try to play that with us, that’s what we want.”
Kyle Juszczyk was a beneficiary of the offensive line’s domination. On the fullback’s 6-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Williams and Laken Tomlinson cleared a wide path that made the score seem effortless.
Juszczyk believes seeing his teammates play in that manner has a positive effect on the entire team.
“We feed on that big time,” Juszczyk said. “I know personally, I do. I saw a lot of flexing out there and that got me hyped today and it definitely is a trickledown effect to everybody. I do think that has helped us, it has kind of been the catalyst for our offense.
“It started with physicality all the way back to that LA Rams game when we were 3-5, it was about running the ball. It was about being physical. And it's trickled down to guys like Deebo and [Brandon] Aiyuk run after the catch. It's not just blocking, it's being physical with the football too.”
Nick Bosa revealed that he made note of a few plays by the offense and that their physical force hypes up the defense in preparation to head out on to the field when it is their turn.
“Definitely like to see physicality from our guys,” Bosa said. “Saw Trent had good one on Juice’s touchdown. Whenever we see Aiyuk or Deebo lower their shoulder, George trying to get those extra yards, you can hear the crowd, they get excited for it too.
“That is just our style of football.”