September 16, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (85) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park. The 49ers defeated the Lions 27-19. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE
The folks at Football Outsiders put together a whole host of stats to assess how each team is performing in as objective a manner as possible. While they are not perfect, FO has been able to think outside the box a bit more than more traditional analysis will provide.
On what is an otherwise quiet Sunday, I thought I would point you in the direction of their current Drive Stats. FO grabs the initial stats from NFL drive charts, and does not adjust them for strength of schedule or situation. The columns provide in order: yards per drive, points per drive, touchdowns per drive, punts per drive, turnovers per drive, interceptions per drive, fumbles per drive, average starting field position (line of scrimmage) per drive. They break the number down by offense, and then by defense.
The offensive numbers are particularly interesting. The 49ers rank second in yards per drive and first in drive success rate. Drive success rate measures percentage of down series that result in a first down or a touchdown, excluding kneel-downs. At the same time, the 49ers rank No. 21 in punts per drive. The offense has been having success, but we've also seen some ugly stall-outs. This would seem to show in the comparison of yards per drive and punts per drive.
Another interesting stat that is not really surprising is average starting position. The 49ers rank No. 22 in average starting position on offense, starting on average at the 25.74 yard line. The Falcons are No. 1, starting on average at the 36.71 yard line. Field position was a key for the 49ers in 2011, thanks to great punt and kick return units. However, turnovers were also a key. The 49ers put together an absurd turnover ratio that was a big boost for field position.
The team has been slow out of the gates in the turnover department, which is not all that shocking. While the 49ers as a whole may not be regressing, the turnover number has come back to earth for now. There is a lot of time left to pile up turnovers, but on the defensive side of the ball, things have quieted down in that department for now. The 49ers rank No. 18 in turnovers forced per drive. The defense has been very solid outside of the turnovers, so this is not exactly a huge concern at the moment. It would be nice to see the defense start getting some more turnovers, but they are performing quite well even without those turnovers.