SANTA CLARA — The winless 49ers think they’re close to establishing the effective pass rush to help the defense.
However, it hasn’t happened yet.
San Francisco is the NFL’s only team that’s played three games to have fewer than five sacks.
All three came in Week 2 against the Seahawks during a 12-9 loss. Four days later, the defensive front couldn’t muster a sack against the Rams and second-year quarterback Jared Goff had his best game as a pro.
But defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said his group is on the brink of getting to the quarterback in a way that could change the season.
“It’s so freaking close for those guys and if they continue to just freaking work, there’s no doubt in my mind the sacks are going to come in bunches and all that stuff will happen,” Saleh said.
Next up is the 49ers’ third consecutive divisional foe, with a trip to play the Cardinals. It’s the first of three consecutive road games. Arizona will have a short week to prepare after losing to the Cowboys on Monday night and allowing six sacks of Carson Palmer.
The Cardinals are dealing with injuries along the offensive line, which has San Francisco believing it can replicate the pressure Dallas put on Palmer.
“The whole D-line, we start licking our chops when we got more stationary quarterbacks that don’t get out of the pocket and try to make something shake like Russell Wilson,” defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said. “I’m definitely excited to get after it this week and just be more dominant as a front.”
Buckner has yet to get a sack, but is becoming one of the league’s best young linemen. But of the team’s trio of first-round picks along the defensive line the past three seasons, only Arik Armstead has a sack this season.
“DeForest is dominating. And those sacks are going to come in bunches for him,” Saleh said. “I know he hasn’t gotten the sacks yet, but if he keeps doing what he’s doing and he keeps operating the way he is, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to flood the gates open.”
Buckner tied San Francisco’s team lead with six sacks as a rookie. He didn’t get his first until Week 6 when he had two. He used that experience to advise recent No. 3 pick Solomon Thomas, who’s gotten off to a slow start as a pro with just one quarterback hit through three weeks.
“Toward the end of the season, everything started falling together. I was just telling (Thomas), ‘Don’t get frustrated out there. Just learn from it,’” Buckner said.
The 49ers’ inability to pressure the quarterback has perhaps been most notable on third down. They’re allowing opponents to convert 52 percent of third downs, the second-worst mark in the league.