Wednesday, March 26, 2014
During his final press conference for the 2013 season Jim Harbaugh was asked if he thought that the 49ers window to a title is still open and the answer was typical Harbaugh, "Back today competing for that very thing. So, no, I don't understand windows."
Harbaugh is paid to coach and win football games, not understand windows, so let me help him out a bit. The 49ers window is about to start closing and it comes down to one thing, Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick is entering the final year of his rookie contract and everything points to the 49ers giving their young signal caller a new deal. Reports from the NFL owners meetings in Orlando have the top three men in the organization, Jed York, Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh all stating that getting a new deal done for Kaepernick prior to the start of training camp would be their offseason priority.
If the 49ers give Kaepernick the type of contract he is seeking, between $18 to $20 million annually, the clock on the window will start ticking like that of Mona Lisa Vito in My Cousin Vinny.
A big reason for the 49ers success over the last three years has been the result of the their depth. The 49ers has had one of the deepest rosters in the NFL. Once they commit that type of money to Kaepernick they will be forced to cut in other areas. This will force the team to rely on younger, less expensive and experienced players and force Kaepernick to shoulder a larger role in the teams performance.
Many will point to the continued success of the Patriots, Broncos, Saints, or Packers in recent years although they have high paid quarterbacks. And those are all valid examples, just as the Bears, Cowboys, Jets and Lions are good examples of teams that have had high paid quarterbacks and failed to win.
The difference is that guys like Brady, Manning, Brees and Rodgers didn't get paid until they had already proven they could win the big one. At the end of the day that's what it's all about right?
In addition to winning, the Brady's and Manning's of the NFL world have proven that they can carry the team and make the players around them better. This season Brady led the Patriots to the Championship game despite losing Rob Gronkowski to injury during the year, and Wes Welker to free agency. Meanwhile, three of Kaepernick's worst performances in 2013 came when Vernon Davis was lost for some or all of the game in losses to Seattle, Indianapolis and Carolina.
Let's forget Brady for a minute and look at an interesting stat that hits much closer to home. In 2011 Kyle Williams and Alex Smith combined for a quarterback rating of 143.3. In 2013 Williams and Colin Kaepernick combined for a quarterback rating of 25.7.
Those in support of a new deal for Kaepernick will point to his outstanding postseason record. They will go on about how he has a 4-2 record and led them to four road wins. All of this in his first year and a half as the starting quarterback.
That looks like quite an accomplishment until you realize that Mark Sanchez did the same thing with the New York Jets.
Back in 2009 and 2010, Sanchez's first two seasons in NewYork, the Jets feature a defense that finished first and sixth in points against. The result was back to back trips to the AFC Championship game and a nice big deal for Sanchez. In 2011, after a number of changes on both offense and defense due in part to salary cap constraints the Jets scoring defense fell to 20th. Sanchez proved that he was unable to shoulder the load for the team and the end result was missing the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
Much like Sanchez, Kaepernick has been backed by a tremendous defense. The 2012 and 2013 49ers have feature defenses finished the season second and third in points against. To this point Kaepernick has not been forced to shoulder the load.
The professionals that run the 49ers franchise know what they are doing.
Tick, Tick, Tick
Friday, December 13, 2013
Throughout the season there have been a number of complaints regarding the 49ers offense, one being the lack of their use of screens. The 49ers actually run a fair number of these, but often it is not done in the conventional manner of a pass to the halfback. This week ProFootballFocus reported that the 49ers have thrown the second fewest screen passes to their halfbacks in the league, ahead of only the Arizona Cardinals.
This has of course led to speculation as to why this is the case. Many, myself included have stated that the reason is due the personnel. As a power run team the interior linemen on the 49ers are not at their best when asked to block in space.
I have gone through and found the 5 screen passes referenced by PFF and will detail them below. The one thing that I found is that they have actually tried to run 2 outside screens to the halfback, the other 3 are all inside screens off the same backfield action. Let's take a look.
VS Arizona. 21 personnel, 2nd & 5 SF 49, result 3 yard gain by Anthony Dixon
This is your typical outside screen in which the guards will pull upfield to pick up the inside linebacker that started out over them. In the picture below you can see Alex Boone already locating the linebacker and beginning on his track. Anthony Davis has done a good job of keeping the end off of Dixon who is faking pass protection.
Dixon has now peeled outside while Boone and Iupati close in on the linebackers.
Dixon has the ball and has started upfield. Boone is to kick out the linebacker (push him to the sidelines) while Iupati cuts his man off.
Dixon doesn't hit the small seam created by the linemen, instead cutting back inside of Iupati and into the pursuit of the Cardinals defense.
VS Washington, 11 personnel 2nd & 5, SF49, result Kaepernick is sacked for a loss of 4.
Three things have already happened to kill this play. The first is that the DE over Joe Staley has crashed down, taking Iupati out of the play and second the OLB has recognized that it is a screen and has grabbed Gore in the backfield. The play side inside linebacker has also quickly recognized the screen and has gotten outside to a point in which the lineman can not make it out to him.
As a result of the outside linebacker blowing up the play Kaepernick is left with no other option than to try and run the screen himself. He rolls to his left and slips down while trying to make a cut.
VS St Louis, 22 personnel 2nd & 10 StL 43, result 9 yard gain by Kendall Hunter
You should notice that the backfield action and down field blocking by the line are the same on the next 3 plays. It starts with a play action look to the left. Staley leads the DE up the field and quickly releases to get to the second level.
Hunter chips on the DE. This is key to make it look like a pass that they have already successfully run to Miller in the flat. Notice Miller running the route. Staley and Goodwin have already released their blocks and are location. You can see that he has already begun to turn and run.
Ball is delivered to Hunter.
Goodwin top and Staley bottom begin to get into their blocks.
VS Jacksonville, 22 personnel 2nd & 24 SF 29, result 6 yard gain by Gore.
Same exact play as above.
VS St Louis, 11 personnel, 3rd & 9 StL 10, result 3 yard gain by Gore.
Same play as the two above, but from a different look. Boldin runs the flat instead of Miller and Kaepernick tries to draw attention in that direction with a quick pump. Gore is chipping the DE and Boone is heading up field for the inside linebacker.
The play is blown up by the DT on the right side of the Rams defense. He does a nice job of recognizing the screen and dropping off. As a result he is on top of Gore and brings him down for only a gain of 3. You can see the path to the endzone had he not properly diagnosed the play.
Friday, December 6, 2013
While reading through Greg Roman's press conference from yesterday, his responses regarding the Seattle defense caught my attention. When asked if he finds himself drawing up some things just because of Seattle or thinking of a different personnel lineup because of what they do his response was, "And with Seattle, the beauty of what they do is it’s pretty simple and it’s pretty consistent. So, as far as drawing up new plays, maybe a few. Maybe a few.”
The only time the Seahawks would adjust out of the above front was when the 49ers would go into their diamond formation. As shown below, when this would happen Seattle would adjust their front to a 3-5-3 look by sliding the man to head up on the center and the safety stepping inside over the tackle. The picture below is an example of this. The 49ers motioned into the set and the Seahawks are adjusting into it which is why the picture is just after the ball has been snapped.
If they are so simple why have are they so good? The answer to that is also simple. By limiting the number of things they need to do the Seahawks defense can play extremely fast. This also partially explains why they are able to fit different guys into their scheme seamlessly. Being so basic allows the coaches to maximize practice reps and drills to get them prepared week in and week out. And don't forget those guys are pretty good over there.
Can the 49ers take advantage of this simplicity after two straight losses up in Seattle? They've been closer than the scores would make it seem.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Vic Fangio's press conference transcription from Dec 5th courtesy of the 49ers.
How much of Seattle’s success is success on first and second downs to stay in manageable situations, third and short?
“Well, it’s a big part of their success. Basically, the big part of their success is they’re balanced. They run the ball on first and second down as much as anybody in the league. And they do it because they’re good at it. The byproduct of that is, when they do get the third down, a lot of times it’s in manageable situations for them. So, it’s a good formula for them. But, it goes back to them being able to run the ball and run it effectively. They do a great job of blocking and they’ve got great running backs in [Seahawks RB Marshawn] Lynch and [Seahawks RB Robert] Turbin there.”
They didn’t get a ton of yards against you in the first game this year. Despite the score, do you think you did pretty good against them defensively?
“If I remember right, that game was 5-3 at halftime and basically all 8 points were scored off of short fields, their five and our three, obviously. Up to that point it was a good defensive game. In the second half, they continued to play great defense and we didn’t. So, we got to somehow find a way to play really good against this team for four quarters, because there’s a good chance that they’ll keep us down low.”
How does that running game change with their full line back, their whole offensive line?
“The running game doesn’t change at all, it’s just better. Anytime you’re missing two starting offensive tackles and a center for some of those games, your effectiveness is going to go down some. But, all three of those guys are back. They didn’t change at all. They still ran their same offense.”
There’s been a couple of games like the first game this year where it’s been really close at halftime and they’ve kind of really extended, maybe both games up there. Has it been game-plan stuff? Is it schematic? How do you explain some of those close games that turn into some big blowouts?
“That’s just their team. They’ve got really good players. The quarterback’s in the conversation of one of the top quarterbacks in the league right now. He’s very dynamic. He can make the plays with his arm. He makes the plays with his feet. And then they’ve got the option running game that he’s directly involved in. So, when you have a great quarterback like they do, you’re never out of a game. And, when you have a great quarterback with the defense they have, they can score, defense can go out and hold them, get it back, score again. They’ve got a really good, balanced team. So, you’re never too far behind when you have a team like that.”
How much has DL Glenn Dorsey’s presence meant to you guys since NT Ian Williams went down and just helped the rest of the guys be able to make plays?
“He’s come in and played great for us. His play has been getting better and better every week. Last week was probably his best game. Those guys challenged us pretty good with inside running. And he withstood that challenge and was a strong force in there for us. We’re very glad to have him, thrilled to have him and he’s getting better and better.”
Throughout his career there’s been talk of he shouldn’t be here or he should be over here on the line. Has he found his home in the middle and is that maybe his best position?
Yeah, I’m sorry.
“Absolutely. I think he’s found a home here. I think he knew that. I think that’s why he came here, one of the reasons he came here. And, he’s really gravitated towards the position. He’s mastering it. Credit to him and to [defensive line coach] Jim [Tomsula] for bringing him along and coaching him along. And like I said, he’s still young enough, still early enough in our system, he’s going to continue to get better and better and we’re glad we have him.”
He’s obviously not the biggest guy. You guys typically haven’t had 350-pound nose guards. Is his size OK and is he a good fit for what you do?
“Absolutely. We love his size. We don’t like big heavy guys. We want some guys that can do the job at the point, but still have some movement in them. And he fills that bill.”
I saw that CB Tarell Brown was back at practice in limited fashion. What happens when he’s 100 percent? Does he get his job back or is that a competition with CB Tramaine Brock there?
“I think he’ll probably be, like a lot of these guys that have come back, when you have inactivity, especially with the injury he had, it’s best to ease guys back in. We’ll tackle that issue when it comes.”
I think QB Colin Kaepernick yesterday used the word physical to describe, to best describe Seattle-San Francisco games. Do you think that fits your defense or do you use that as a non-description for your style?
“We like to play physical football. That’s pretty well known throughout the league. They do too. So, it’s a good battle.”
Is it more so than when you play anyone else or is it a budding NFC West kind of trait?
“I think anytime within the division, guys get to know each other, they play against each other a lot, it amps up a hair here and there, but it’s just good NFL football.”
Do the Seahawks still use that play, the blocking scheme that we saw Ian Williams’ season end on? Is that something that’s been a regular part of their plan of attack through the past nine games, 10 games?
How do you coach your guys? Are they all on high alert to be watching at their, at ankle level?
“You’ve just got to protect yourself against the low blocks, get in good position, stay square to the line, get your hands and feet working for you and know that they do it.”
As a coach, do you think that’s a part of the game that should be eliminated?
“That’s for the other people to decide, not me.”
You talked about the team’s never out of it. It’s true. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has four comebacks this year in the fourth quarter. When you look at those drives, in particular, when they were down 21 points against Tampa Bay, what stands out about him and how he runs that offense when they’re behind?
“Two best things that he does is he’s a very mobile quarterback, so he can make plays with his feet, and invariably he’s scrambled for some big plays within those games you’re talking about. And, he does a really good job of throwing the ball in the seams and deep. And he’s been able to get some big chunks that way. Everybody thinks this guy’s a freak quarterback. This guy’s just a really good quarterback who happens to be very fast, very quick and very elusive. He’s not just a guy that runs around. He’s a passer, too. He can run any offense and be a confident quarterback.”
You started to talk about NFL MVP Award for him. Do you think that’s premature or do you think that’s legitimate at this point?
When you play a shorter quarterback a lot of people think that should be a disadvantage with a guy being short when you can bat down passes and some other things. Why is he able to succeed when other shorter quarterbacks have not?
“You’ve got to remember the difference between six-feet and six-three is only three inches. He throws through windows. He can move around. He doesn’t get his ball batted. I was watching the Monday Night game and they threw a stat up there where he’s in the top half of not getting balls batted. I didn’t even know anybody kept that stat. But, it doesn’t stand out when you’re watching the tape that he gets balls batted. When you’re short, it can be to your advantage in a lot of positions. It reminds me of me coaching [former New Orleans Saints LB] Sam Mills back in the day. He was a 5-9 linebacker. Every now and then being short would hurt him on a play. But, I can think of a lot of plays where it helped him and I think that’s the case with this quarterback too, because he’s a special player with his movement, with his quarterback instincts. He’s not just standing there and throwing it. He’s got great quarterback, football instincts.”
You watched the Monday Night game live?
“Some of it, yes.”
You watched it here?
By yourself? With other coaches?
“It was on in my office while I was working.”
Lynch’s numbers have dropped off the last couple of games, but how hard is he running and what kind of threat is he to catch the ball out of the backfield?
“He’s a big threat out of the backfield. They’re a team that likes to throw the ball downfield and if the downfield throw isn’t there he comes down to the check-down which is him and that’s where he can be very dangerous. I don’t see any drop-off in his running. Teams have just really loaded the box on him. The Saints played extra big people in the game. They did a decent job against the run, but you saw what happened against the pass. So, they’re balanced enough that if you go to that extreme they’re going to hurt you with the quarterback and the passing game.”
As you enter the last quarter of the season, especially for this week against the Seahawks, what’s your sense of the guy’s excitement, their energy level, enthusiasm, all those sort of things?
“I think we’re refreshed and ready to go for the stretch. This game is no more important than the three that follow. For all intents and purposes, we’re not in the conversation for winning the division. I know it’s mathematically still possible. But, we’ve got four equal-important games down the stretch and we’ve got to treat them all equally.”
You don’t blitz a whole lot. Is that part of your philosophy that you’ve always had as a coach or is that something you do because you have the personnel that allows you to do that?
“No. It’s because of the players we have. We feel like we’ve got a system here that best suits our players. In the past, I was known for a lot more pressure and some people thought too much at times. I think you always have to look at the players you have as a group more so than individually and do the best for those 11.”
Did you ask your players to check out the live broadcast of the Monday Night game?
“Why should I?”
Greg Roman's press conference transcription courtesy of the 49ers.
“Afternoon. Big division game this week. Very good defense we’re about to face starting with their D-line. They’ve got a lot of depth on their D-line. They roll them through, keep them fresh. Do a nice job starting with [Seahawks DT Brandon] Mebane in the middle. Not a guy you hear a lot about, but very productive at the nose guard position. Obviously everybody knows about [Seahawks DE] Red Bryant and [Seahawks DE] Chris Clemons and they’ve got [Seahawks DT Clinton] McDonald playing at a high level there as well. Linebacking corps, very fast. Very fast linebackers. Do a nice job setting the edge. [Seahawks LB Bruce] Irvin, [Seahawks LB K.J.] Wright and then [Seahawks LB] Wagner in the middle, and then very productive secondary as well. So a tough opponent, division opponent. Looking forward to the game, but right now going through our preparation. Players are doing a very good job and today’s more of a situational day. So any questions?”
Going back and seeing how WR Michael Crabtree performed on his way back, did you think he was all the way back even before you saw that 60-yard catch?
“I thought Mike had a really good game and I thought he got better as the game went on. It’s kind of how we thought it would go. He was very confident going into the game and seeing him out here in practice, it kind of played out like we thought it would. But, did a really good job and I think he’s just going to keep getting better from there.”
He didn’t have any adverse reaction to playing that many snaps and then playing alright in practice?
“Absolutely not, no. And nice hat by the way.”
I know every game is, the saying before every team is another opponent. But knowing how important Seattle has been for you guys in the division and how good they are, during the offseason did you find yourself drawing up some things just because of Seattle or think of a different personnel lineup because of Seattle does? Any extra?
“Well, I think you definitely spend time on all your division opponents in the offseason. Looking back to last year, we spent a lot of time on the Rams in the offseason. I think there’s always time invested in division opponents. Arizona was a little bit less. We’ll see what they’re going to do with the new coach in there. And with Seattle, the beauty of what they do is it’s pretty simple and it’s pretty consistent. So, as far as drawing up new plays, maybe a few. Maybe a few.”
They’ve had a couple that’s been tight at halftime a couple times and they’ve extended it big time in the second half. Was that adjustments they were making? Was that schematic in any way?
“Well, I think looking at both sides of the ball, I just think they’re just playing at a high level. They’re doing a nice job and they really don’t change a whole lot on defense, which is probably pretty smart on their part. But no, I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of adjustments. They’re pretty much a play-it kind of defense and they do a really good job of doing what they do.”
Do you like the emotions your wideouts are showing out there, especially WR Anquan Boldin, who was pretty hyped up last Sunday throwing his arms up?
“Oh yeah, Anquan’s a warrior in every sense. He epitomizes a football player. We all love it when they get juiced up and usually it follows a great play they made and we love that too. And he’s made plenty of them. But yeah, playing with passion. I really think these guys are starting to develop some chemistry being able to work together, talk through things as we go. It’s something that you see developing as well as what’s on the field. But guys that love playing football, I think it all starts there. Just a love of the game.”
Does some of that chemistry come from having that group all healthy again?
“Oh yeah. Oh without question. It’s hard to have chemistry when you’re not working together.”
Has G Joe Looney been working as a right guard this week with pads?
“Joe’s been spotting it. He’s been playing some.”
Who else has been rotated in?
“Every week we rotate guys through, [G/C] Daniel [Kilgore] and Joe. So, you’re never quite sure how that’s going to play out and guys have to be able to play multiple positions. Usually you dress seven linemen going into the game and those two extra linemen have to be multi-taskers. They have to be able to walk and chew bubblegum at the same time. So, they’ve got to get reps during the week, which they are getting.”
Do you get him on the left side too, though?
Do you get him on the left side too?
“Every week they get reps. Really, the inside three will have to kind of move around a little bit.”
If neither T Joe Staley or G Mike Iupati can go, who do you bump up to the active 46?
“I haven’t made that decision yet, Matt. But we’ve got somebody in mind and just haven’t really finalized it yet.”
I have a question about QB Colin Kaepernick. Whether it’s through play calling or what you instruct him during the week, do you guys limit how many times he runs with the football in regular season games?
“No comment. No, I really don’t think so. I think we don’t want him carrying the ball every play if that makes any sense. I definitely think there’s a certain number in our minds that would take place, but absolutely not. Once we get to the game, man, it’s time to go.”
Do you keep track of a number? It seems like you track a hit chart, how many times a guy gets hit? Do you guys do that?
“No, I think you just have a feel for that, how the game’s playing. And then, if he’s getting hit, why’s he getting hit? How do you prevent that from happening? It’s not something you chart really, but you find why the problem occurred and then take measures to fix the problem.”
On the play Crabtree broke for the long play, did you put that in especially for him coming back? Was that installed last week just for that?
“A little bit. We felt really good about him doing it for sure and really saw something that alluded to that being a good play. And really it was really good by Colin and Crab kind of having the Jedi thing going on that play. That was something they talked about in the meeting. We talked about it, they got a feel for it, and it happened on the field. So, that was really good to see. Really good football.”
Going back to Kaepernick, how do you feel about how he’s done, how he’s managed getting the yards when he can and then getting down and avoiding the hits?
“Outstanding. I thought he’s done an outstanding job. I thought last week’s game against the Rams was one of the best games, if not the best, he’s played big-picture wise. Everything from soup to nuts, A to Z, I thought it was a magnificent performance on a lot of levels. So, that was great to see.”
How much would you say the improvement recently in passing has to do with the health of the receivers versus it seems like defenses are trying to stop the run?
“It’s a little bit of both. I think anytime you can bring some of your best players back on the field, it’s going to have a huge impact on things. I think earlier in the season, we didn’t have that kind of chemistry, but I think we see it starting to develop now. And the fact that some teams make the decision that we’re going to do everything and anything to stop the run game, it just opens up even more avenues. So, it’s a little bit of both. Ultimately though, it comes down to the players execution on the field and that’s what’s very exciting to see.”
How do you think that these young offensive linemen, or maybe the more inexperienced offensive linemen, would be equipped to handle a game like this? DE Michael Bennett of the Seahawks said he wants to come down here and bloody your guys’ noses and things like that. In a game with the physical magnitude that this will have, how do you think they’re equipped to deal with that?
“I think they’re fully equipped to deal with those threatening quotes or threatening words. I was really very proud of how [G] Joe Looney played this past week. It was really the first live game action and he was in there, he was going after people, was technically pretty sound. Always some things to clean up, but didn’t skip a beat.”
You guys have faced DE Cliff Avril a couple years in a row. Does Seattle use him any differently and I know he’s always lined up on that left side across from T Anthony Davis, and what do you think about that matchup, Avril on passing downs against Anthony?
“Well, Avril in Detroit was an every down player and you knew where he was going to be. They’ll move him around a little bit and he’s done a nice job rushing the passer. He’s very talented and I think Anthony will be up to the task.”
Does any NFC team come to mind that [inaudible] the way they can rotate those defensive linemen, that has that kind of defensive line depth? Real quality guys coming off the bench.
“Yeah, they’ve got starters coming off the bench and it’s pretty unique. And nobody even strikes me off the top of my head. I think it’s pretty unique.”
Why has Seattle been a tough matchup for Colin in his two starts? Is there anything they’re particularly good at?
“Well, I think they’re good, number one. I think he’s started against them twice up at their place and they’ve played very well. I think they were great. Both games were really good learning experiences for him, as well as everybody. But it’s another regular season game and we’re getting prepared for it and looking forward to it.”
We’ve asked the players, asked defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, he said Seattle’s just another game, but how important is it, do you think to the coaching staff, to not be swept by Seattle, show that you can beat Seattle this weekend?
“We don’t want to get swept by anybody. We don’t want to get beat by anybody. We want to win every game and it’s that simple from our standpoint. To make it any more complex or complicated than that, is just a waste of time. We want to win every game and it’s that simple. That’s where it starts, always have and always will.”
Is that something that this offense has won in different ways, and if you take Houston out of the equation, has had a difficult time with really good defenses, like top ranked defenses, is that something that this offense needs to put together a good game. Obviously, against Seattle, like you said, execute just for the benefit when you close out the season going into the postseason?
“Well, we need to play good against anybody. Can’t play down to anybody’s level, and certainly rise to the occasion anytime you’re playing a top-flight defense such as Seattle. It’s really just another game against a good defense. And we need to play, make improvements, and play well and score more points than they score. Again, it’s a division opponent, it’s a big game, we all got that, but it comes down to playing well. What we do, it’s not about them, it’s about us and what we do and I think we’re on track to do that.”
When you’ve beaten the Seahawks, generally what have you done well offensively?
“We’ve played them five times, and I think in all those games, in all those games that we’ve won, and really when you see anybody that beats Seattle, I think one of the common threads is they’re going to make some chunk plays against them. And whether it be in the run game or the pass game that’s a common thread of teams that have beaten Seattle.”
What’s been there for WR Quinton Patton now that he looks healthy?
Quinton Patton, now that he looks healthy, do you guys have a plan for him?
“Yeah, he’s moving around really well. And anytime a guy’s coming off an injury you can have a plan, but you also have to have a plan B and see how he goes day-to-day. And right now he’s doing a nice job. It’s good to have [WR Mario] Manningham, who’s looking better every day, out there. And those guys are moving around good. That’s a group of guys I’ll go to battle with any day.”
Monday, December 2, 2013
The 49ers dominated the Rams on Sunday to pick up a 23-13 win. The 10 point margin of victory does not show just how convincing the win was. The 49ers defense held the Rams to 108 total yards of offense through the first 3 quarters while building a 23-6 lead.
On the flip side the 49ers did not go 3 and out until their first possession of the second half. The did this despite losing Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley on the 6th play of the game and having to reshuffle their line.
Here are the answers to the 5 burning questions I asked on Friday.
1) What impact will Michael Crabtree have? - 2 catches for 68 yards. Played 42 of 67 snaps (63%).
After a rough start in which he was called for a blocking in the back and pass interference, Crabtree settled down and played a good game considering it was his first live action since the Super Bowl in February.
His 60 yard reception in the 3rd quarter was vintage Crabtree, a quick stop and go that could have gone for 6 if not for the safety taking a good angle and cutting him off around the 10 yard line.
2) Can the 49ers get the run game going? - No.
The 49ers could only muster 83 yards on 30 rushes (2.8 ypc), and those numbers are helped out by 2 Colin Kaepernick scrambles. The key though is that the 49ers coaches continued to try to get it going, which kept the play calling balanced leading to 69 passing yards and their only passing touchdown off play action from their 22 personnel package.
3) Can the 49ers defense contain Zac Stacy and Tavon Austin? - Yes.
The 49ers run defense held Stacy to 3.8 yards per carry (19 - 72yds) which is over half a yard less than he was averaging coming in.
Austin was a non-factor in the passing game with 4 receptions for only 25 yards. He was slowed down in the return game as well as he averaged only 16.8 yards per kick off return and 1 punt return for 10 yards.
4) Can the 49ers offense repeat? - Yes.
The 49ers offense put up 23 points and 338 total yards. These numbers are similar to what they did the week before against Washington, however doing that against the Rams is a much bigger accomplishment.
5) Can the offensive line hold up in pass protection? - Split Decision.
The 49ers offensive line lost Joe Staley on the 6th play of the game forcing Alex Boone to move over to his natural left tackle position and Joe Looney to step in at right guard. This resulted in the line giving up 4 sacks during the 49ers first 3 possessions of the game, however they gave up none over the next 9 possessions.
Robert Quinn and Chris Long came into the game as two of the top 10 pass rushers in the NFL and were held to no sacks yesterday by Boone and Anthony Davis.
49ers 23 Rams 17, missed by 4 points.
A nice win, now it's time for Seahawk week.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Coming off a nice win in Washington the 49ers face another must win Sunday as the St Louis Rams make their final visit to Candlestick Park. A lot has changed for both teams since the 49ers 35-11 week 4 victory in St Louis. What looked like a potential walk over at the beginning of November now looks like a much more difficult task.
Here are 5 burning questions to which the answers will be key to the outcome of the game.
1) What impact will Michael Crabtree have? - Crabtree is set to make his 2013 debut, only 7 months removed from tearing his Achilles tendon. It is likely that his role will be more limited than Mario Manningham's was when he returned from his knee injury against Carolina and played 45 of 57 snaps.
I would expect Crabtree to take over the snaps that last week went to Jon Baldwin and Kassim Osgood. That would put his percentage of snaps in the range of 30-40%. However they use him, it will be good to see #15 running around on the field again.
2) Can the 49ers get the run game going? - The 49ers run game has been almost entirely shut down over the last 2 weeks, having been held to only 2.7 yards per carry. As I mentioned in my post earlier this week there are a number of ways to explain the low output, but that doesn't change the fact that the 49ers have to get it straightened out.
The Rams run defense has been very solid over the last 4 weeks allowing only 3.8 yards per carry, and those numbers are inflated a bit by a the 198 yards they gave up against Tennessee on a short week. Taking that performance out they have given up only 2.6 yards per carry in 3 of their last 4.
3) Can the 49ers defense contain Zac Stacy and Tavon Austin? - When the 49ers last saw St Louis the Rams running game was struggling to find it's footing, averaging only 3.2 yards per carry in the first three games of the season. In that first matchup the 49ers made it even worse by holding the Rams to only 18 yards on 19 carries.
Following that week 4 game, the Rams made a change at running back and going with rookie Zac Stacy. That change has made a world of difference for their running game, and over the last 7 weeks the Rams have averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
Another rookie has been making a big impression of late for the Rams. Tavon Austin has begun making the type of big plays that many envisioned when he was selected in the first round. Over the last 2 games Austin has made only 4 catches, but 3 of them have been for over 30 yards.
4) Can the 49ers offense repeat? - The 49ers offense finally made some plays last week in their win over the Redskins. That's the good news.
The bad new is that they were able to manage only 304 yards of total offense and threw for 228 yards against a defense that had given up and average of 391 yards of total offense and 293 yards threw the air over the previous four weeks.
The 49ers pass offense also benefited greatly by focusing it's attention on throwing at Josh Wilson. Wilson came into the game as Washington's worst CB, and the 49ers went after him with 11 of their 24 targets and completed 10 of those for 149 yards and 1 touchdown.
In looking at the matchups against the Rams the defensive back to pick on should be second year player Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins comes into the game having given up a passer rating of 119.8 this season
5) Can the offensive line hold up in pass protection? - The Rams have one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL led by Robert Quinn. So far this season Quinn has managed to rack up 13 sacks and 67 total QB pressures according to ProFootballFocus. On the other end of the line is Chris Long who has 8 sacks of his own to go along with 43 QB pressures. Both rank in the top 10 in the league in pass rush productivity.
Fortunately for the 49ers left tackle Joe Staley has been one of the best in the business this season, and finished with a 1.6 grade in the first meeting earlier this season. The concern will be on the other side of the line where Anthony Davis has struggled in protection in recent weeks.
Look for the 49ers to move Kaepernick around in the pocket a bit more than usual this week to help slow down the pass rush. In the first meeting they moved Kaepernick on 7 of his 27 drops.
49ers 23 Rams 17