When the Miami Dolphins officially ruled left tackle Terron Armstead out ahead of their game against the 49ers on Sunday, that meant they would face San Francisco’s best defense and star pass rusher Nick Bosa with back tackles Brandon Shell and Greg Little.
Armstead’s chest strain, coupled with right tackle Austin Jackson who was already ruled out Friday with his ankle injury, put the Shell-Little combination at the forefront of the matchup.
The Dolphins started Shell on a right tackle with Little on the left, and they usually did well against the 49ers’ pass rush – but Bosa finished with three sacks and a forced fumble that led to a touchdown. However, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa seemed jittery in the pocket in the first half, throwing inaccurate throws even when he had time.
Bosa’s final firing sealed victory for the 49ers. He forced a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Dre Greenlaw and returned for a touchdown.
Bosa, a former St. Thomas Aquinas standout, got his first sack early in the second quarter as the Dolphins went into the pass on third and inch. Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. was on his own to deal with Bosa after a fake play against him and a chip on Bosa by fullback Alec Ingold. Miami settled for a field goal after the 8-yard loss.
Bosa got his second late in the first half, when he got free on a stunt, starting over the left tackle and then sliding into the A-hole between center and right guard.
He also hit Tagovailoa once in the first quarter just after the Dolphins quarterback released a pass to an open Jaylen Waddle over the middle, but ended up slightly underthrown where linebacker Fred Warner was able to deflect it into his zone.
In the third quarter, Bosa going to Tagovailoa failed as he was flagged for roughing the passer and hitting the quarterback low and late on a completion to Tyreek Hill.
Shell and Little each have more of their career experience in the respective positions they played on Sunday. There was some doubt beforehand whether the two would switch sides after ESPN reported the opposite alignment on Twitter early Sunday morning, but later deleted the tweet.
Shell seemed more comfortable playing the right tackle than playing left. Elk have been forced into action in both positions this season.
“Imagine you’re right-handed and you’re going to write with your left hand,” Shell explained of the difference he feels earlier this week. ‘You don’t feel so well. You can do it, but you don’t feel so good.”
“Anywhere the coach needs me and whenever he needs me, I have to be ready,” Little said this week. won there this year.
Little got four starts at right tackle from weeks 2 through 5 this season, when Jackson initially went down with a sprained high ankle. After Armstead’s toe injury that saw him miss the October 16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Shell started on the right with Little on the left, then when Armstead initially left the October 9 game at the New York Jets, Shell came in on the left side.
When Armstead returned for the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 23, Shell held on as starting tackle until Jackson’s return last week against the Houston Texans, filling in well.
As both Armstead and Jackson started together against Houston for the first time since Week 1, Armstead went out with a chest injury for the first time just before halftime, while Jackson made his exit in the fourth quarter, exacerbating the ankle injury he just came back from.
Armstead’s absence against the Texans spelled immediate trouble for Tagovailoa, who was sacked four times between the end of the first half and his two drives in the third quarter before the Dolphins handed him a 30–6 lead.
The 49ers have wide receiver Deebo Samuel (quadriceps) and left tackle Trent Williams (back) playing after the two came in questionable.
The 49ers defense also got back defensive tackle Arik Armstead for the first time since Week 4.
Armstead came in questionable with the pectoral strain and toe injury that has lingered since Miami’s opener. He was one of seven Dolphins inactives announced 90 minutes before the 4:05 p.m. kickoff at Levi’s Stadium.
Dolphins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Myles Gaskin were also ruled out pre-game after each questionable Sunday.
The Healthy Dolphins inactives were cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, wide receiver Erik Ezukanma and tight end Hunter Long.
To help with the depth of the offensive line, the Dolphins brought linemen Kenall Lamm and James Empey from the practice squad to the game day roster on Saturday.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo exited Sunday’s game in the first quarter. He was ruled out for the match with the foot injury.
San Francisco backup quarterback Brock Purdy came in for Garoppolo to begin the second offensive series.
Garoppolo was taken from the field to Levi’s Stadium just before the ride started. The 49ers’ first run ended on a sack where Garoppolo’s left foot/ankle was rolled as he was sacked by Dolphins linebackers Jaelan Phillips and Jerome Baker. Fellow Niners quarterback Trey Lance is injured reserve.
For the Dolphins, it was doubtful whether wide receiver Jaylen Waddle would return with a leg injury sustained in the second quarter. He had entered the locker room but was back on the Miami sidelines before half time and then returned to start the second half.
Linebacker Elandon Roberts was doubtful to return at halftime with a calf injury, but was back for the second half as well.