Posted: 9:00 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013
By Andrew Carroll
The 49ers' uneven defeat in the Northwest last Sunday sent tidal waves everywhere in the advanced stat world. Crashing into hilly San Francisco, the waves drowned Greg Roman in horrific fashion, taking Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick out to sea with his lifeless body, and leaving in its wake an infestation of trolls who had previously spent their days living in coral reefs on the ocean floor.
Out of sight, out of mind -- until a performance like that in Week 2 against a hated division rival provides new life. Let's just be glad it was September and not December, because the 49ers will have plenty of time to figure this loss out and prepare for revenge against Seattle at Candlestick in what will likely prove a must-win game.
As things stand now, the loss knocks what used to be the consensus top pick from our friends at Pro Football Focus into 3rd, behind Peyton Manning's Broncos and They-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
Top 3 is not as bad as some other sites. Football Outsiders, for example, notched the 49ers down several rungs to 28th in VOA and 12th in DAVE. This basically means that, without opponent adjustments, the 49ers' performance over two weeks makes them the 5th worst team in the league. Of course, the adjustments will help that ranking quite a bit, as Seattle and Green Bay are both playoff calibre teams.
DAVE takes account of some of this, as it includes FO's preseason projections. The 49ers rank 12th there, as mentioned, so it ain't all bad.
On to Brian Burke's Advanced NFL Stats, we see the 49ers plummeted in Offensive EPA to 25th, after being a top 3 team last week.
As goes the offense, so goes Colin Kaepernick. He took a dip everywhere, with PFF adding him to their Week 2 "Had a Bad Day" list.
ANY/A is the passing stat I have been mentioning the most through two weeks and The Kid somehow graded negative in it. This means the penalties for his sack yardage lost as well as his 3 picks outweigh the 127 yards he gained through the air.
A truly dreadful outing that I blame partly on him and partly on the coaching staff. Frank Gore was forced to run into stacked boxes all night long, Kaepernick was not getting much help outside from his receivers, and, in my opinion, Harbaugh/Roman called way too much pistol. I am not sure why we came to play with a more traditional game-plan against Green Bay, but then got cute and failed to play fundamental football on the road in Seattle against a disciplined defense that you need to be "Physical, with an F" with to win against.
Seattle gave no respect to the San Francisco aerial threat; but instead of spreading Seattle thin and attempting to run inside, the team consistently packed 4 guys in the backfield in all sorts of pistol formations and then either ran into 9 man boxes and failed miserably, or tried throwing to said covered receivers in man, despite it being clear early on that the Seahawks DBs were having their way on the outside.
The commentators mentioned quite early their confusion over the lack of bunch formations to allow clean releases for our receivers. I guess Jim Harbaugh wasn't listening to the broadcast.
Not making things easier for Kaepernick, PFF graded the entire offensive line negative. Add in a couple bad decisions and inaccurate throws, including a crucial early mistake in the red zone, and any team in the league will get blown out at Century Link.
I repeat: any team in the league will get blown out at Century Link under those circumstances. San Francisco hopefully learns and moves forward. Colin is still 10th in yards per pass attempt and 7th in yards per completion -- and both those numbers will rise. Seattle made every "elite" quarterback in the league look very, very normal last season. On Sunday we learned that Kaepernick is not yet an exception.
Luckily, the offense will have a comfortable match at Candlestick to get back on the right track.
The Indianapolis defense is middle-of-the-pack through two weeks in both pass rush and pass coverage, and below average in rush defense, according to PFF.
Last week against Miami, the Colts allowed wideout Mike Wallace and tight end Charles Clay to both have 100 yard receiving days, as quarterback Ryan Tannehill managed 319 yards total, with 1 touchdown and 0 picks. This should bode well for Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis (should he be healthy).
I mentioned in last week's Advanced Stat article that the 49ers had not had such a bad day rushing as they did against Green Bay in Week 1 since Week 3 of 2011 against the Bengals.
Well, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, and we have a trend.
Outside of Kaepernick, the 49ers managed 13 rushing yards on 11 attempts against Seattle. I have a hunch that might be bad on some kind of historical level, but I'm honestly afraid to devote any research to the question.
If San Francisco cannot get Frank Gore and the traditional ground game going against an Indianapolis defense that will be over-matched in every way with too many weapons to cover, then we will have a trend.
I have a hard time believing that a back like Frank Gore, with a mauling o-line unit that was only last season considered the best in the league by a wide margin, are giving us all they can right now.
If things do not improve on Sunday, we will have a serious problem on our hands. I don't care how shiny our new quarterback is -- if you can't line up in the I formation and mow people over, then it's just not football anymore.
This week should prove a much better outing for the San Francisco offense. Let's hope that starts from the ground up.