SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — As the sacks and pressures keep piling up each week and the records and awards get closer to reality, Nick Bosa feels like a shooter who can't miss.
The San Francisco 49ers' star edge rusher has been in quite a zone this year, leading the NFL in sacks and spearheading the league's top defense.
“I feel like I have an answer for every type of blocker at this point,” Bosa said. “Some better than others, obviously, but it’s going well.”
That's quite the understatement.
Bosa leads the NFL with 17 1/2 sacks despite missing one game and is tied for second in the league with 78 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
Bosa's impact goes far beyond those numbers for the first-place 49ers (11-4) as his mere presence impacts what offenses can do against a defense that leads the league in fewest points allowed, yards per play allowed and yards per carry allowed.
San Francisco also has allowed the fourth lowest passer rating and is tied for the seventh most sacks this season.
“It’s insane the level he’s playing at,” linebacker Fred Warner said. "That’s a big reason why our defense is performing the way it is because we know that it takes all 11, the rush and the coverage work together and knowing that he’s on the field and has that opportunity to get home, you get stickier in coverage and you’re able to sit on routes and he’s just been playing out of his mind.”
Bosa's play has him within two sacks of tying Aldon Smith's franchise record set in 2012 and five away from matching the NFL record of 22 1/2 held by T.J. Watt and Michael Strahan.
It also has him as the overwhelming favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, to join Deion Sanders (1994) and Dana Stubblefield (1997) as the only 49ers to win the AP Defensive Player of the Year award.
“That’s a dream,” Bosa said. “I’ve played this game since I was 7 years old, and I played D-line the entire way through. I’ve watched guys throughout the years and just wanted to be in that position. I finally feel like I’m kind of living out my dream.”
Bosa has been a nightmare for opposing offenses.
He lines up on both sides of the line to take advantage of favorable matchups and to make him much harder to game-plan against for opposing offenses.
Almost no team has been able to slow him down outside of the Chiefs, who used jet sweeps and motion to slow him down, and the Buccaneers, who had Tom Brady getting rid of the ball quickly.
Bosa has at least five pressures in nine of his 14 games and is the fourth player since sacks became official in 1982 to record at least one in 12 games in a season.
Niners tight end George Kittle said Bosa should be in the running for the MVP award as well as Defensive Player of the Year.
“I wouldn’t want to be a tight end that has to play against him,” Kittle said. “He’s better than everybody else. He’s a better athlete. He’s stronger, he’s faster. He’s so smart. The moves that he does, he’s so creative. He’s so good getting the offensive linemen’s hands off of him. His effort is always there. When Bosa gets a sack, it just kind of ignites the entire team.”
NOTES: Bosa missed practice with an illness but is expected back later this week. ... WR Deebo Samuel (knee, ankle) could return to practice Thursday depending on how well he responds to a workout Wednesday. ... DT Javon Kinlaw was given a day off as the Niners ease him back in from his return from a knee injury. ... DT Kevin Givens (knee), P Mitch Wishnowsky (illness) and LT Trent Williams (rest) also missed practice.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL