The 49ers’ defense was nearly unrecognizable in the first half of Sunday’s meeting with the Los Angeles Rams, but nickelback Isaiah Oliver provided a much-needed boost to the usually dominant unit in the third quarter.
His display of seven tackles and one interception earned him the team’s Defensive Player of the Week honors and a stamp of approval from San Francisco’s top executives.
“I remember there was a play and it was live [Rams running back] Keren Williams, and [Oliver] “He shut him down,” general manager John Lynch told Greg Papa on NBC Sports Bay Area’s “49ers Game Plan.” “Keiren is a strong player. Stop him before the first down [on a third-and-5 play]. And [assistant GM] “He just became a Niner,” Adam Peters said during the game. “I thought it was very appropriate because that was what we wanted from him and he embraced it.”
The NFC West rivals entered halftime tied at 17, and the Rams started the third quarter with the ball. However, their efforts to move the chains and regain the lead were unsuccessful due to Oliver’s tackle on Williams.
Then, on the Rams’ next drive with the score still tied, Oliver picked off a one-handed Matthew Stafford pass, which undoubtedly flipped the switch for the 49ers, who kicked a field goal on the next drive and eventually won 30-23 at SoFi Stadium.
“I thought he was a stud today,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game.h/t 95.7 The Game). “I had to watch the entire tape to be able to see it all, but I know he made some huge plays. … Especially with some of our bases getting damaged throughout the game. Those guys had to step it up because they were all over the place.”
Lynch believes Sunday’s display will not only help Oliver gain confidence in himself, but will also boost the team’s confidence in him.
“I think when a player, even a veteran player, has those moments, all of a sudden, your confidence blossoms,” Lynch told Baba. “And the confidence your teammates have in you. So, I thought it was a big game. He was our player of the week from a defensive standpoint for us. I’m really proud that he’s a quality guy and a really good player going out there.” To help us.”
The 49ers lost longtime running back Jimmie Ward to the Houston Texans in free agency but signed Oliver to a two-year, $6.75 million contract after he started 38 of 62 games over five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. Oliver struggled in the preseason and lost his place for a while, but Lynch credits the 26-year-old’s ability to keep his head up and keep grinding, as his hard work paid off at the perfect time for San Francisco.
“Isaiah came here and had a hard time learning the way we play, our style of play, the concepts, the speed at which we play,” Lynch told Baba. “We attack people. You take pride in running, getting 11 caps, and that allows you to play with a little bit of reckless recklessness. If you mess up and get on your side of leverage, here comes Dre Greenlaw, here comes [Fred] Warner, Here Come the Stack Monsters, D-Line.
“And I think Isaiah, I was proud of him, because he struggled when he lost his spot for a while, and he never had a down day. He just kept his head up, kept getting better, kept competing, and you could see it.”
Oliver, now officially nicknamed the “Niner,” hopes to keep the momentum going in the 49ers’ “Thursday Night Football” home opener against the New York Giants.
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”