ESPN's Mike Sando has returned from his recent vacation and he put together a rundown of how each NFC West team performed when they sent different numbers of blitzers. Specifically, he looked at four or fewer rushers and five or more rushers. The rundown of stats provided some interesting numbers that raise a variety of questions.
The 49ers sent five or more blitzers fewer times than the rest of the division, although the number is not drastically lower. When the 49ers did send 5+ blitzers, opposing quarterbacks completed a higher percentage of their passes, they had an improved touchdown-to-interception ratio, and their QB rating increased from 87.0 to 100.9. On the other hand, the 49ers sack rate improved from a Sack/Pass Play rate of 5.0% to 9.5%.
A broad look at these numbers would seem to indicate the usual question marks surrounding the secondary. The fans who are more knowledgeable when it comes to Xs and Os and the expected results of certain plays can correct me on the following conclusion. It would seem that the completion percentage and touchdowns and whatnot are improving because there are fewer linebackers clogging up some of the underneath stuff. Additionally, if an offense is able to audible to a screen (assuming one wasn't already called) they can beat the blitzes coming their way.
The 49ers have struggled with screen passes in recent years and this would seem to implicate that issue in some manner. Can defensive coordinator Vic Fangio be a difference-maker in solidifying this defense? The issue of scheme versus personnel has been an issue for the 49ers on both sides of the ball arguably since this blog first began four and a half years ago.
The 49ers will likely have some turnover on defense this year so one has to wonder if the schemes of Vic Fangio will be able to overcome any short comings. Fangio is often associated with the Dom Capers school of blitzing, which could mean a variety of exotic blitzes meant to confuse and overwhelm opposing offenses. Can that make a sufficient difference in 2011?