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Jadeveon Clowney’s breakthrough performance came in the biggest moment

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Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

A lot was expected from Jadeveon Clowney upon his arrival via trade from the Texans. Frank Clark had been traded to the Chiefs, and 27.5 of the Seahawks’ 40 sacks in 2018 were vacated. For Seattle’s defense to play to the level they had in the previous season, Clowney would need to produce at a high level.

Through nine weeks, neither had happened: The Seahawks’ defense ranked 27th in DVOA entering Monday night, and Clowney had just two sacks. However, Clowney’s numbers hardly told the whole story. Not only has he been an outstanding run defender wire-to-wire, the physical phenom has been seeing an absurd amount of double teams—something that, especially early in the season, created opportunities for rushers around him, particularly Quinton Jefferson—as Seattle’s only threat up front rushing the passer:

Even despite the numerical disadvantage Clowney has been facing consistently, he has been playing outstanding. Per Sports Info Solutions, entering Week 9 Clowney had registered 32 hurries, 15 hits and 34 pressures, in addition to his two sacks (his 12.6 pressure percentage would be the highest of his career if it holds over the rest of the season). According to ESPN’s pass rush win rate, Clowney ranks fifth, at a rate of 27 percent. Combine those numbers with Clowney’s reputation for coming on strong in the second half of seasons, and it wasn’t a matter of if Clowney would finally cash in on his hidden value, but when.

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On Monday Night Football, in the biggest game of the season to this point, we found out our answer.

Clowney was the best player on the field in a game between a 7-2 and 8-0 team, and had his way with the 49ers’ offensive line. All told, Clowney paced a reinvigorated Seahawks pass rush with five tackles, one sack, five QB hits, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown.

Next Gen Stats helped to paint an even kinder picture of Clowney’s performance, and somehow the numbers still don’t seem to accurately tell how impactful he was:

San Francisco got both their starting tackles back in time for Week 10, but it did not matter. For nine weeks, Clowney has been toiling away on a defensive line that offered little around him; he stacked strong performance on top of strong performance. But in Week 10, Clowney was inevitable, everywhere and instrumental in Seattle delivering the 49ers their first loss of the season.

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