SANTA CLARA — Sept. 9, 2017 is a day etched into Nick Bosa’s mind. It was the day that spawned a need for revenge that finally came to fruition under the bright lights of "Monday Night Football."
Bosa’s retribution came late in the second quarter of the 49ers' 31-3 beatdown of the Browns, when he forced Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield into an intentional grounding penalty. Bosa's celebration was a reenactment of when Mayfield, then the QB for the Oklahoma Sooners, planted an Oklahoma flag in the middle of the Ohio State field after a 31-16 win over Bosa's Buckeyes over two years ago.
Bosa was deadpan when he was asked about his celebration.
“I think everybody knows what that was for,” Bosa said after the game. “Just wanted to get payback. He had it coming.”
Bosa finished the night with a dominating performance in the team’s rout of the Browns. He finished the game with two sacks, five quarterback hits, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and four solo tackles. When he wasn’t making contact with Mayfield, he and the rest of the defensive line were getting pressure on the quarterback.
The flag-planting wasn’t where the verbal and physical harassment of Mayfield stopped. Bosa admitted he was getting under Mayfield’s skin throughout the game. Although Bosa is not normally a trash talker on the field, Mayfield brought that out in the rookie pass rusher.
“I was kind of trying to talk,” Bosa said. “I don’t usually talk but this game he had it coming but he didn’t say one word back. I was just screaming his name, ‘Baaaaker…Baaaaaker,…you good? Come on pick it up, we want a challenge.”
Apparently #49ers Nick Bosa was getting under Baker Mayfield’s skin all night.— Jennifer Lee Chan (@jenniferleechan) October 8, 2019
Bosa, who says he’s not normally a talker, detailed how he verbally and physically took vengeance on the #Browns quarterback. pic.twitter.com/3fiBZ7JJ1u
Did the 49ers' dominant defensive line make Mayfield skittish?
“Yes,” Bosa said. “I don’t know how anybody can think he could see over Arik (Armstead) and Buck (DeForest Buckner) but he was panicking, double-clutching, rolling back and forth, we had him rattled all game.”
But Bosa knows it takes more than one person to have a dominating defense and he gave a lot of credit to Dee Ford, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner for helping him notch his breakout game. But Ford sees potential for even more from the rookie.
“I see what he can do,” Ford said. “He will have a breakout game. Tonight was a level up for him. I feel like he is a game-breaker period. I think we are going to see a lot more of Nick.”
Coach Kyle Shanahan also was not surprised by Bosa’s performance. He has seen it since the rookie first arrived in Santa Clara.
“I had to go against him in practice and quickly he definitely pissed me off a lot in practice for an offensive coach,” Shanahan said. “Then I get a look at the tape and have mixed emotions because trying to decide which one I was happier with that day.”
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Bosa might be momentarily satisfied with the team’s win, but already is looking ahead to facing the Rams in an NFC West showdown in Week 6. While he thinks that the 49ers have shown that they are not a “fake undefeated team,” there is still a lot more to prove.
“I think that’s pretty clear,” Bosa said. “I think it’s time to play a division opponent which is what really matters. We’re not done.”