Monday, November 11, 2013
5 Burning Questions Answered
1) What impact will the return of Aldon Smith have on the 49ers defense? - Not much.
Smith participated in 12 of 67 defensive snaps and finished with no tackles and only 1 quarterback hurry. Pro Football Focus gave Smith an overall grade of -.3, and as has been the case most season his run defense grade was a -.5.
The best player on the field yesterday for the 49ers defense was Smith's replacement, Dan Skuta, who finished the day with the highest PFF grade on the defense with a 3.3. He set the tone right away on the first play of the game by getting around the left tackle and forcing an incompletion. He ended the day with 3 recorded pressures.
In addition to the pressure, Skuta did an extremely good job of setting the edge in the run game. With Skuta in the game the Panthers run game was only able to manage 19 yards on 9 carries in his direction. The lone Panthers touchdown occurred when Skuta was replaced for a few plays by Corey Lemonier due to an ankle injury.
2) What impact will Mario Manningham have on the 49ers passing game? - Not Much.
Manningham saw extensive action in his first game back, participating in 45 of the 57 offensive snaps. He was targeted 6 times, finishing with 3 catches for 30 yards, and 2 drops.
3) Can the 49ers stay hot when playing with extra rest? - No.
In their 7th attempt the 49ers lost a game for the first time when they had extra rest and the opposition was coming off a normal week.
4) Will the 49ers be able to contain Cam Newton? - Yes and No.
The 49ers defense held Newton to his lowest completion percentage total, and second fewest yards of the season. Newton finished the day 16-32 for 169 yards and 1 interception. He also had 7 rushes for 17 yards.
The 49ers defense did a very good job of putting pressure on Newton throughout the game, pressuring him on 18 of his 38 drop backs. The 49ers also sent the blitz at Newton 9 times, but those were feast or famine. On the 9 blitzes the 49ers got home for the sack 3 times, but when not sacked Newton completed 5 of 6 passes for a QB rating of 100. On the 29 drop backs that Newton was not pressured his rating dropped to 40.7.
While he struggled for most of the day, Newton was able to make plays in key moments late. On the go ahead possession he converted a 3rd and 6, then following an Ahmad Brooks sack that briefly took the Panthers out of field goal position Newton completed a 6 yard pass to Steve Smith to set up a 53 yard field goal attempt for Graham Gano.
5) Can the 49ers offense continue to grind it out on the ground? - First half yes, second half no.
In the first half the Roman gave the ball to Frank Gore 14 times and he responded with 61 yards, an average of 4.3 yards per carry. In the second half Gore was given the ball 4 times.
In my post on Friday I mentioned how the 49ers had averaged half a yard per carry above the average of the opponent, and that held true again on Sunday. Unfortunately, Gore turned into an afterthought in the second half.
This game played out as almost a carbon copy of the Indianapolis game once Vernon Davis went down. It appears as though Greg Roman doesn't think the running game can be effective without Vernon Davis. In the 7 possessions after Davis left the game the 49ers ran the ball 8 times.
Just like the Indianapolis game, Roman turned the second half over to Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers ran 21 offensive plays in the second half and 16 of those, 15 passes and 1 run, had the play going through Kaepernick. The end result was a total of 45 total yards.
Coming into this season Kaepernick was the talk of the league, Ron Jaworski went as far as to say that he could be the best ever. The truth is, even during the 5 game winning streak he was riding the coattails of Frank Gore and a defense that was dominating. The 49ers have turned the offense over to Kaepernick 4 times this season, and in those games they are now 1-3, the only win coming in the season opener.
At some point the excuses need to be put away, and Kaepernick will need to either step up or step out.