The San Francisco 49ers won big against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but had to finish the game with a significant loss.
All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his right knee. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed the injury to reporters On Monday. There is no other structural damage to Hufanga’s knee.
Hufanga injured his knee when he planted his right leg in pass coverage.
The injury is a major blow to San Francisco’s stout defense.
Hufanga, 23, earned a full-time job with the 49ers last year in his second NFL season. He started in all 17 games and tallied four interceptions, two forced fumbles, nine passes defensed, two sacks and 66 tackles. He earned Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors for his efforts. A versatile defender who plays all over the court, he won’t be easily replaced in San Francisco’s secondary.
Rookie backup Ji’Ayir Brown took Hufanga’s place and made an immediate impact. He intercepted Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield and then broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone to secure the win in the fourth quarter.
This performance was praised by head coach Kyle Shanahan.
“I thought he did a great job” Shanahan said. “To lose a player like Huf in a game and then come back in, come up big and make two great plays.”
Brown is close to taking on a starting role with important games against the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles on the 49ers’ schedule.