Now that the regular season is complete, the 49ers released a rundown of their notable statistical performances from 2011. Thankfully 2012 football gets going in a couple weeks, but it is still worth noting some of the great performances of the season. It was historical in certain respects, and just plain interesting in others. If you want to read over the four-page PDF, check it out.
One of the intriguing stats was Ted Ginn Jr. getting a career high 27.6 yards per kick return, which was good for third in the NFL. His 12.3 yards per punt return was not a career high, but was still good for fourth in the NFL. While people can rag on Ginn about his receiving skills, he is a top-notch return man. He has been out since injuring his ankle against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but hopefully he will be back a week from Saturday. Andy Lee gets plenty of appropriate credit for flipping the field position battle, but Ginn has been so key in the return game. It is a critical element of the 49ers performance.
Alex Smith had his share of notable stats this season. He had career highs in interception percentage, fourth quarter QB rating (94.8), overall QB rating (90.7) and completion percentage (61.4%). He also hit career highs in passing yards, yards per attempt, attempts and completions. Starting a full 16-game schedule for only the second time in his career helped with those counting stats. The 49ers offense is not predicated on Smith making a ton of big plays, but he does need to make some measure of plays for the team to have success. Teams will still look to load up the box at times against the run and dare him to pass, and he will need to make them pay from time-to-time to keep them honest.
Many of the notable performances were related to the team's ability to hold onto the ball and also to take away the ball from the opposing team. The 49ers equaled the 2010 New England Patriots with only ten turnovers on offense, which is the best mark in NFL history. The 49ers also equaled the '10 Pats for second highest turnover differential (+28) in NFL history.
The 49ers rush defense was one of the best in NFL history, as we all know. The three rushing touchdowns allowed is the lowest total since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, with 11 teams tied with four allowed. Their streak of 15 consecutive games dating to 2010 without giving up a rushing touchdown is tied for first since 1970. In terms of yards, the 49ers gave up only 77.3 yards per game, which was 15.3 yards better than the second place Baltimore Ravens. It was the second lowest per game average in franchise history, behind only the 1995 49ers who gave up 66.3 yards per game.
It is interesting to consider how the team's more rush heavy dominance will match up against teams like the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers that put together such huge passing numbers. The 49ers pass defense isn't bad, but it can still give up some big plays. Ideally, when one of the Saints, Falcons or Giants comes out to Candlestick next week, the weather will be sufficiently dreary. I'm not holding my breath, but maybe we can get some rain to muck it up a bit and slow down the passing attacks.