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Last week we ran our first red zone post, focusing on the 49ers red zone passing offense and Vernon Davis. This week, as painful as it is, I thought we should look at the 49ers red zone defense, and specifically, the defensive performance against the Falcons. The Falcons entered the red zone five times and came away with four scores, three Michael Turner rushing touchdowns and a Matt Ryan rushing touchdown. The other appearance in the red zone resulted in the Dre Bly interception that was eventually fumbled.
Given those numbers, should it surprise anybody that Football Outsiders ranks the 49ers 31st against the rush in the red zone? On the bright side, the 49ers rank 5th against the pass in the red zone, so that's certainly a plus. Nonetheless, at first glance it would appear to be disheartening to see those kinds of numbers. And yet things are not entirely awful in a manner of speaking. Prior to the Falcons game, the 49ers had not allowed a rushing touchdown all season.
In general, the team's red zone defense had been doing a very solid job. The 49ers opponents currently have a red zone touchdown average of 48.1%, which is good for 8th in the NFL. Prior to this past Sunday, the 49ers had faced Adrian Peterson and Steven Jackson, but not much else in the way of super-talented running backs. And Jackson is solid but the Rams never even got into the red zone against the 49ers. So, while the 49ers shut down Adrian Peterson for the most part, another solid back in Turner ran wild on them.
As we look back at the first quarter of the season, and look ahead to the rest of the season, what kind of red zone defense will we see? I'd imagine it's somewhere in between what Turner did, and what everyone else has done, but who really knows at this point. The Texans rushing attack has been very weak this year, so hopefully the 49ers can take care of business. But another poor performance at Houston would not bode well for this defense.