49ers-Dolphins Statistical Review: It’s Déjà vu All Over Again

This past weekend made four things very clear to me. First, despite all of you who thought it was an "epic fail," I made a great choice going on that cruise instead of to the game. I think I might have exited the stadium via a swan dive off the upper deck if I had gone. Second, despite the 49ers having played the 5th-easiest total DVOA schedule thus far (-6.9%), their non-divisional games have been brutal when it comes to red zone defense. Six of those nine games, and 5 of their last 6, were against teams that have above average red zone defenses. Third, Mike Martz has issues with red zone offense regardless of the opponent. This is now the 3rd game (@ARI, @DAL, @MIA) that the Niners lost this season mainly because they couldn't execute in the red zone. Martz has, and is continuing to develop, a not-so-impressive track record in this not-so-unimportant aspect of offensive football. Finally, if you read my statistical preview, none of what happened on Sunday should have been any surprise to you given that I said the following:

Ummm...Looks to me like this game is going to be decided in the red zone.

So, to be honest, we all know why the 49ers lost on Sunday, and we all know that the stats predicted it. Therefore, because you don't need any new stats to tell you what you already know, I'm going to be short and sweet with this game review, simply breaking down the 49ers' scoring opportunities against Miami.

1ST QUARTER, 5:19 LEFT

2-5-MIA 20

(5:19) 24-M.Robinson up the middle to MIA 21 for -1 yards (70-K.Langford, 51-A.Ayodele).

3-6-MIA 21

(4:41) 13-S.Hill pass short right to 24-M.Robinson pushed ob at MIA 20 for 1 yard (52-C.Crowder).

4-5-MIA 20

(4:02) 6-J.Nedney 38 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-86-B.Jennings, Holder-4-A.Lee.

That was poor to say the least. In play success rate terms, that's 0.0% for 0 yards.

3RD QUARTER, 4:43 LEFT

1-10-MIA 22

(4:43) 13-S.Hill pass short right to 81-S.Ryan to MIA 14 for 8 yards (52-C.Crowder).

2-2-MIA 14

(4:03) 29-D.Foster right end to MIA 12 for 2 yards (98-M.Roth, 52-C.Crowder).

1-10-MIA 12

(3:39) 13-S.Hill pass incomplete short left to 89-J.Hill.

2-10-MIA 12

(3:34) 29-D.Foster up the middle to MIA 5 for 7 yards (55-J.Porter, 24-R.Hill).

3-3-MIA 5

(2:54) 13-S.Hill pass incomplete short middle to 29-D.Foster (52-C.Crowder).

4-3-MIA 5

(2:50) 6-J.Nedney 23 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-86-B.Jennings, Holder-4-A.Lee.

So-so. In play success rate terms, that's 50.0% with a first down, 9 yards on successful plays, and 0 yards on unsuccessful plays.

4TH QUARTER, 1:20 LEFT

1-10-MIA 21

(1:20) (No Huddle) 13-S.Hill spiked the ball to stop the clock.

2-10-MIA 21

(1:18) (Shotgun) 13-S.Hill pass incomplete short middle to 29-D.Foster (52-C.Crowder).

3-10-MIA 21

(1:13) 13-S.Hill pass incomplete deep left to 88-I.Bruce.

4-10-MIA 21

(1:07) 13-S.Hill sacked at MIA 28 for -7 yards (55-J.Porter). PENALTY on MIA-55-J.Porter, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 14 yards, enforced between downs.

Now, this isn't technically in the red zone, but it's close enough for my purposes. And for my purposes, this is no doubt an epic fail. In play success rate terms, that's 0.0% for 0 yards.

After the jump, I'm going to give my take on the red zone issue ...

So what might be the cause of Mike Martz's red zone ineptitude? Well, I'm going to look into this in more detail at a future date, but anecdotal and preliminary statistical evidence suggests the guy has a (site decorum) for red zone passing. While passing during the last-minute drive was necessary, the dump off to Robinson on 3rd and 6, and the pass to Jason Hill on 1st and 10 at the 12-yard line certainly were not.

True, the pass to Ryan from the 22 was successful, but you'll notice that it was, yet again, a passing play called on 1st down. In my view, incomplete 1st-down passes are far easier to overcome outside the red zone than they are inside it because there's more space on the field with which to get a new set of downs (i.e., continue the drive). Inside the red zone, Martz's predisposition to pass-run-pass play-calling puts the offense in a situation on 2nd and 3rd downs that is difficult to overcome when only a maximum of 1 extra set of downs can be achieved. In other words, those 2nd and 3rd downs become lower-percentage attempts at touchdowns rather than higher-percentage attempts at first downs. Oh, and don't even get me started on what kind of 1st-down play was called when the 49ers got to the Miami 28 during that 16-play, 48-yard, Andy-Lee-ending drive (Hint: It wasn't a running play). Anyway, as of right now, this is just my opinion, so I'll no doubt be looking at it in a more scientific way after the season.

Next up on Friday...a preview of a Rams game that involves competing 49er trends: their ability to beat really bad teams vs. their inability to win on the road. We'll call it, "the immovable object vs. the irresistible force."

 

 

**DVOA statistics used to produce this article were obtained from Football Outsiders.

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