I constantly see misconceptions in the national media about what the 49ers offense is and isn't. I also hear this from fans and even the beat writers for the team. For example, on Friday, Eric Branch wrote an article where his lead off question was a reference to the 49ers being the 25th ranked offense, yet somehow managing to be 8-1 (and almost 9-0). He would go on to attribute the success of the team to the special teams play, and I agree the special teams play has been fantastic.
However the 49ers offense being ranked 25th is telling only part of the story and only using part of the statistics. I'd like to lay to rest some common misconceptions about the offense.
Misconception #1: The offense isn't a high scoring offense
Eric Branch referred to the 49ers as being the 25th ranked offense. When looking at total yardage, he's correct. However I've yet to see the winner of a football game decided based on the total number of yards gained. It's all about the points on the board, and the 49ers offense is actually very good. It's ranked 7th in the NFL in points per game. The teams ahead of the 49ers?
That's pretty good company I think.
Misconception #2: It's all run, all the time.
This one gets repeated frequently by almost everybody. True, Frank Gore has had a resurgent season with an outstanding stretch of games, but the run game hasn't dominated the 49ers offense. Some interesting (at least to me) numbers:
This means that the 49ers ran the ball 266 times and attempted to pass the ball 262 times. That's the very definition of balanced.
Again, refuting the idea that the 49ers offense is built around the run.
Of course this doesn't tell us how the team got into scoring position, but it's another indicator that the 49ers aren't a run always, or even a run first team.
Misconception #3: It's a scoring defense
This one I don't hear quite as much as the previous two misconceptions but I still hear it as an explanation for how well the 49ers are doing. It's not true either. The 49ers have scored all of 1 touch down on defense, plus a safety. Two touchdowns have come from returns (one on a kick off, one on a punt).
Misconception #4: The 49ers pass defense is weak
Again this one is a tale of two numbers. Looking at total yardage the picture is bleak. The 49ers are ranked 23rd in the league in total yardage given up. Some numbers to round out the picture.
The 49ers are ranked 13th in completion percentage of opposing QBs. Not fantastic, but solid
The 49ers are ranked 16th in passing tds allowed. Solidly middle of the pack
The 49ers are tied for 8th in the league in interceptions. This is impressive and is more important for a passing defense than yards given up.
The 49ers are tied for 10th in the league in sacks. This is good.
The 49ers are 14th in the league in net yards per pass attempt (6.1 ypa)
The 49ers are ranked 1st in the league in passes defended
All this while teams throw on the 49ers almost more than any other team. The 49ers defense ranks second in passes attempted against it per game (40.4).