Tuesday, October 16, 2012

49ers Rewind, and a Tribute to Low Hanging Fruit

The 49ers offense struggled mightily against the Giants on Sunday in their 26-3 loss to the New York Giants.  Lets take a look at 3 key plays and 1 very hotly debated topic.

  • Let's start by taking a look at Alex Smith's first interception on the day.  Up to this point he had been playing well.  The play call is the same route concept that the 49ers beat the Giants on in last years NFC Championship Game for a Vernon Davis touchdown (Below).  This play starts with play action, and includes a deep post by Mario Manningham (blue), a wheel route by Delanie Walker (white), and a flat route by the running back.  As you can see the Giants have defended both of the deep options very well.  Unlike in the Championship game when the defender over the top of the wheel route got too far inside, the DB Prince Amukamara this time maintains his position over the top of Walker.  The better read on this play would have been to check down to the RB who has a step on the LB and the DB has his back turned.  As Smith's mantra goes, " Live to fight another down."  


  • Here we have the 2nd interception.  This play is a quick slant/flat combination.  As you can see in the picture above Manningham (white) is well defended by the CB, while the RB (yellow) is open for a completion of at least 5 yards.  As you can see below, Smith tries to force the ball to Manningham, and Antrelle Rolle comes away with the interception.
  • Above is the 3rd and final interception on the day.  This is a great job of disguising the coverage and Rolle (white) circle timing it up perfectly.  From the snap of the ball Rolle is walking into to the area where Smith is going to throw, and as soon as Smith begins his throwing motion Rolle steps in front of the receiver for the int.  Again, this is a great coverage scheme by the Giants, they had it set up perfectly, and baited the throw.

A hot topic post game was the use of Colin Kaepernick and how it affected the flow of the 49ers offense.  In my opinion this is nothing more than low hanging fruit.  Kaepernick participated in a total of 3 offensive snaps during the 1st half.  Those plays included 2 zone read handoffs, which we will discuss later, and a deep pass completion.  

To me the discussion should be: What has happened to David Akers?  After setting an NFL record with 44 FG's in 2011 and hitting on 84.6% of his attempts, Akers has hit on only 68.8% of his attempts in 2012.  For a team that is continuing to struggle to score TD's, Akers is on pace to match his 52 attempts from last year, this is particularly concerning.

His 2 misses on Sunday changed the entire complexion of the game.  Had he not missed on Sunday the 49ers may have survived the Giants opening the 2nd half with a long kick return which lead to a touchdown.  With those 2 misses, instead of being down 17-9 and within one score, they found themselves down 17-3, a huge deficit for a team that does not often get chunk plays.

If Akers continues to struggle that will put additional pressure on the offense to produce points, and as we saw on Sunday, good defenses can give them fits.  Unfortunately, the 4 defenses that they face the next 4 weeks are all ranked higher than the one that just held them to 3 points and zero trips into the Red Zone.

In closing I want to take a look at 1 last play from the game on Sunday.  On the 49ers first possession they face 3rd & 6 at the Giants 26 yard line.  They send in Colin Kaepernick to run the zone read option.
  • On this play the offensive line is going to zone block to the offenses right.  Kaepernick will read Osi Umenyora (yellow) while riding the ball to Frank Gore.  Umenyora does a good job to slow play the read, keeping his shoulders square to Kaepernick who makes the correct read and gives the ball to Gore running right.  Gore does not recognize the opening between Davis and Boone (white arrow) and instead bounces the play wide and is lucky to get back to the line of scrimmage for a net result of no gain.  Watching the video from this angle, there is little doubt that had Gore hit the hole the only thing between him and pay dirt is the deep safety.

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