The 49ers set an NFL record -- the bad kind -- with only seven takeaways all of last season. Through three weeks, they've already matched that total, and the improved pass rush is a major reason why.
San Francisco has invested a lot in its defensive line, from a second-round draft pick traded for Dee Ford, to first-round draft selections used on Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and -- most recently -- Nick Bosa.
While Bosa missed significant portions of the offseason and training camp while recovering from multiple injuries, he has surpassed -- or at the very least, lived up to -- San Francisco's wildest expectations. Just look at one of the decisive plays from the 49ers' victory over the Steelers on Sunday.
NFL Network's Brian Baldinger spent 11 seasons as an offensive lineman in the league, and he was extremely impressed by what he saw from Bosa on a play that culminated with a sack and forced fumble.
With less than a minute remaining in the game and San Francisco clinging to a 24-20 lead, the Steelers faced a third-and-3 from their own 29-yard-line. Bosa lined up on the right side of the 49ers' defensive line. Across from him stood Pittsburgh's 6-foot-9, 320-pound All-Pro left tackle (and former Army Ranger) Alejandro Villanueva.
.@49ers rookie defensive lineman @nbsmallerbear comes from the Family Business of hunting QB’s. This #49ers defensive line is filthy and they will affect many games this year. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/EN1eDpDP1C— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 23, 2019
"The Bosas have a family business of hunting quarterbacks," Baldinger said, beginning his video breakdown. "The next up: Nick Bosa."
Bosa timed the snap well and got off the line quickly. He utilized his combination of speed and strength to get Villanueva on his heels before powering the offensive lineman over onto his back. As Bosa disengaged with Villanueva, his forward momentum caused him to lose his balance.
But that didn't stop the No. 2 overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft.
"Here's the most impressive part: Look at him stay on his feet," Baldinger continued. "Because that's what they do; they hunt quarterbacks. You can't hunt quarterbacks on the ground, so you just keep chasing, and you keep hunting, and you keep after it, and you get the ball out."
Bosa got up and continued to pressure Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, getting the QB in his grasps before DeForest Buckner finished him off, sacking Rudolph and forcing a fumble, all but ending the game.
"Here comes Buckner getting the ball out," Baldinger highlighted. "Buckner and Bosa, Bosa and Buckner. With Ford and Arik Armstead, four No. 1 picks, playing like it. All getting after the quarterback, affecting the game."
The 49ers have been building up their D-line for years, but it wasn't until the arrivals of Ford and Bosa that it was elevated into the upper echelon of the league. Those two combined for 10 of San Francisco's 22 quarterback pressures against Pittsburgh, with Bosa's seven leading the team. He's now up to two sacks, four quarterback hits and 11 pressures through three weeks, according to Pro Football Focus.
Bosa might be a rookie, but his quarterback-hunting skills clearly are well beyond his years.