Bad things happen when a team loses the cohesiveness of its offensive line. It's a unit that plays together on every offensive snap of the game, and many coaches and players will tell you that cohesiveness and stability is one of the hallmarks of a strong offensive line.
So when the San Francisco 49ers lost Mike Iupati to injury, we had more to worry about other than the fact that it was Adam Snyder who would be his replacement. When Joe Staley went down with an injury in Week 13 against the St. Louis Rams, there was even more cause for concern. But wouldn't you know it, the 49ers actually have some pretty solid depth along the offensive line.
I am actually a fan of Snyder and his ability to play interior ... so long as he never, ever starts at tackle again. Joe Looney was a pretty significant question mark, admittedly, but Alex Boone is still probably better-suited as a tackle than an interior lineman, so seeing him at left tackle was actually kind of neat. I mean ... the injury to Staley notwithstanding.
On Sunday, the 49ers surrendered four sacks. That sounds like a lot, but not all of them can be blamed solely on the offensive line, and it's worth noting that all four sacks came in the first half, when the team was still settling into its lineup change. That said, the biggest issue with these sacks is that all four came in St. Louis territory, with two coming in the red zone.
Each drive ended in points, however. We're going to keep the breakdowns short and sweet this week, but here's some giffage of each sack allowed by the 49ers:
First Quarter: 3rd and 8 at STL 13, Colin Kaepernick sacked at STL 14 for -1 yards (W.Hayes)
I actually feel like Colin Kaepernick does a solid job of trying to step up and look for his man before he abandons the pass in this situation. I also think he took a good angle on the outside, but the St. Louis defender -- William Hayes -- just took a better angle and really hustled to get out there and drop Kaepernick for the loss.
As for what broke down on the offensive line, it's pretty clear, I think. Right tackle Anthony Davis struggled to hold his man which causes Kaepernick to take his eyes off downfield first. Alex Boone (playing left tackle by this point) double teams Robert Quinn with Adam Snyder and Jonathan Goodwin actually does a solid job holding his man.
Unfortunately, the play is already breaking down at that point. Kaepernick moves into Goodwin's man and Looney (playing right guard) lets his man go, which wasn't much a fault of his because Kaepernick was already scrambling. Had that play not broke down elsewhere, Looney would have made a very solid block.
First Quarter: 1st and 10 at STL 35, Colin Kaepernick sacked at STL 44 for -9 yards (M.Brockers)
What is there to say about this one? As you can tell, Kaepernick has at least one wide receiver option available in tight end Vernon Davis and Kaepernick is so very close to having what looks to be a very, very open running lane. If he gets past that tackle, it's very likely a significant gain. But Adam Snyder loses his man big time, which is what primarily causes Kaepernick to leave the pocket.
Bruce Miller and Kendall Hunter slam into their blocks with gusto, which I really dig. This play looks like much more of a blocking disaster than it actually is. If Snyder doesn't let that guy around him (forgivable either way as he likely expects one of the backs to chip that direction), then this play could have gone different. Oh well.
First Quarter: 2nd and 15 at STL 25, Colin Kaepernick sacked at STL 31 for -6 yards (K.Langford)
I really dig what a good job Boone did of keeping himself in front of his man. Other than that though, few things went right on this play. Davis gives up some pressure on the outside, forcing Kaepernick to step up. Unfortunately, by that time both Snyder and Goodwin are getting beat, while Looney essentially did nothing on the play. Maybe Kaepernick could be a bit better in the pocket and avoiding the inside pressure, but his interior line didn't do him any favors on this one.
Second Quarter: 2nd and 11 at STL 15, Colin Kaepernick sacked at SL 19 for -4 yards (M.Brockers)
Presented without comment.