Know Your Enemy – SF

Posted: September 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 6 Comments »

San Francisco 49ers


Beat Seattle.  Lost to Dallas in OT.  Beat Cincy.

OFF:  32nd in yards, 12th in points

DEF:  7th in yards, 4th in points allowed

Things have been up and down so far in the first year of the Jim Harbaugh era.  People like the 2-1 start, but the offensive problems of recent years are every bit as bad this season.  The whole point in hiring an offensive guy was to help the offense and develop a young QB.  Rookie Colin Kaepernick struggled mightily in the preseason and is clearly a project.  Veteran Alex Smith has okay numbers, but watch the tape and you don’t see an impressive player.  Harbaugh has also made some strange coaching decisions.  His oddest move came in the loss to Dallas.  The Cowboys committed a penalty on a FG attempt that would have given the Niners a 1st down.  The kick was good and Harbaugh decided to keep the points and say no thanks to the gift 1st down.  That came back to haunt him as Dallas came back to win in OT.

It is funny watching the Niners play.  I get flashbacks to 1999 when Andy Reid took over the Eagles.  You see moments that really impress you, but the Niners lack top talent.  They’ve got some very good players, just not enough.


Harbaugh sure took over the right team.  He ran a power run game at Stanford and the Niners had a similar offense last year.  They are built to run the football.

The Niners have a big physical OL, for the most part.  LT Joe Staley is a bit light.  RG Chilo Richal really struggled last week.  He is the weak link up front.  C Jonathan Goodwin was up and down.  The OL isn’t playing as well as hoped and that shows in a couple of ways.  Alex Smith has been sacked 11 times.  He’s only thrown 74 passes.  Not good.

The running game is also hurting.  Frank Gore averages 2.5 yards per carry.  Backup Kendall Hunter, a quick, athletic back, averages 2.7 ypc.  As a team the Niners have 85 carries for 209 yards.  The long run is just 16 yards.  The OL has talent so it is disappointing that the group is struggling the way they are.

The passing game is weak.  SF wide receivers have a total of 20 catches this year.  And 1 TD.  Jeremy Maclin has 19 catches and 2 TDs by himself.  TE Vernon Davis is an elite player.  He’s 15-179 so far this year.  He is a matchup nightmare.  He beat DBs and LBs last week.  Michael Crabtree has a world of talent, but has yet to be the impact WR that SF hoped when they drafted him.  He had a critical 3rd down drop last week and had a TD called off because he was ruled to have stepped out of the endzone before catching it.

SF doesn’t attack vertically on a consistent basis.  They don’t block well enough and lack WRs that can get deep.  Ted Ginn has the speed, but he’s more of a RS than receiver.  The Niners are all about ball control.  Be methodical and move the chains.  They do get creative with TEs Vern Davis and Delanie Walker.  They have the longest receptions on the team, 39 and 29 yards.

If SF is so horrible, how are they 12th in scoring?  Ginn has 2 return TDs.  That’s part of it.  The Niners also have taken advantage of short fields.  Check out the length of their scoring drives this year:

SEA – 5 plays, 18 yds – FG
SEA – 4 plays, 3 yds – FG
SEA – 9 plays, 50 yds – FG
SEA – 6 plays, 49 yds – TD
SEA – 15 plays, 72 yds – FG
SEA – Ginn PR TD

DAL – 11 plays, 68 yds – TD
DAL – 9 plays, 48 yds – TD
DAL – 1 play, 29 yds – TD
DAL – 4 plays, 9 yds – FG

CIN – 8 plays, 48 yds – FG
CIN – 10 plays, 72 yds – TD
CIN – 4 plays, -3 yds – FG

They have 5 scoring drives of less than 30 yards.

Make the Niners play on a long field and they will struggle to score.


SF runs a 3-4 defense.  The stats are impressive, but they’ve played a really bad Seahawks team, an injured Tony Romo, and a rookie QB.  The Niners are solid, but the numbers are helped by who they’ve faced.

DEs Ray McDonald and Justin Smith are the best guys up front.  McDonald is very quick and is a disruptive player.  Smith has a great motor and can make plays based on hustle and skill.  The OLBs aren’t dynamic.  Ahmad Brooks has his moments, but isn’t a consistent force off the edge.

The ILBs are the strength of the team.  Patrick Willis is probably the top ILB in the NFL.  He sometimes struggles when you run right at him, but is at his best when he can pursue and make plays on the run.  He has great speed and range.  Very good tackler.  Solid cover LB.  Beside him is Navorro Bowman, an emerging player.  Bowman actually leads the team in tackles.  He’s not as athletic as Willis, but might be a better pure run defender.

The secondary is a mixed bag.  The CBs are Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers, the former Skin.  Rogers is a solid player.  He has an INT and 5 PDs this year.  Brown didn’t impress me last week.  I didn’t see a good burst from him.  Dashon Goldson is the best S.  He’s not making many plays this year.  Donte Whitner is the normal SS, but he’s injured and I’m not sure he’ll play.  The team has 5 INTs, all by DBs.

The Niners do some blitzing, but they only have 7 sacks and all of them are from the best pass rushers (Brooks, Haralson, Smith, McDonald).  Their run defense is very good.  They only allow 2.9 ypc and the longest run against them is 13 yards.  They haven’t given up a rushing TD this year.  Pass defense is middle of the road.


Andy Lee is a great Punter.  He averages 52.8 yards per punt.  Amazing.

The PK is some guy named David Akers.  Must be a rookie.  Not familiar with him.

Ginn is the PR and KOR.  Dynamic speed.  He is a legit threat on every return.


The Niners beat the Bengals 13-8 in an ugly defensive battle.  The Niners offense didn’t cross midfield until midway through the 3rd quarter.  That should give you an idea just how ugly things were.  Right now 10 NFL teams average more than 400 yards per game.  The Bengals and Niners combined for 454 yards in the game.  Ugh.

I won’t bore you with a lot of details.  Both teams played solid defense, but there was just as much incompetent offense.

6 Comments on “Know Your Enemy – SF”

  1. 1 Aaron N. Smith said at 5:21 AM on September 30th, 2011:

    So I guess an obvious question is whether Nnamdi will be responsible for covering Davis all day. Seems like a good matchup since he has size, but I’m curious to hear what folks think about this.

  2. 2 Anonymous said at 6:33 AM on September 30th, 2011:

    I think we definitely should mix in Nnamdi on him. You want to give SF different looks, but I’d find a way to use NA on Vern quite a bit.

  3. 3 Steve H said at 5:57 AM on September 30th, 2011:

    I just hope we don’t lay an egg this week. I’m not sure I could take it.

  4. 4 Anonymous said at 6:27 AM on September 30th, 2011:

    Ditto, my friend.

  5. 5 Anonymous said at 6:54 AM on September 30th, 2011:

    Hear anything about why the Niners decided to stay in Ohio this week? Does Harbaugh see a need to getting acclimated to the time zone or something? I never heard of a team on either coast doing this before, but maybe it isn’t that rare on back to back road trips.

    Totally unrelated, I just wanted to share a short compilation video someone linked me of how the Boston Red Sox ended the season:

    They blew a 9 game lead in the wild card race from early September. Worst collapse in baseball history.

  6. 6 Anonymous said at 2:26 PM on September 30th, 2011:

    So do we take Ray Graham when he declares for the draft?