In the second installment of Slow Starts we examine the play-by-play and drive charts to see what kept us sleepless after Seattle. Feedback from ninersnation community has helped streamline the format, including minor tweaks for readability and an expanded conclusions section. Again, the meat of this series is the monotonous play-by-play layout, also being honed for maximum readability. The PBP is created to act as surrogate game film, and for your reference. Other’s are doing sharp statistical work to analyze the mystery of starting slow. For instance, Larushka's mastery of numbers showed that 50% of failed first halve drives during last season ended on interception, fumble, sack, or penalty. So we know that half the time, slow starts are the result of busted plays. Well, the other half of the time it was a punt or field goal, but did the drive stall because Keap didn’t see the free blitzer or because Gore missed his block? Enter the PBP, to aid in your own conclusions.
We know that Keap has the highest YPA in the NFL, yet a lower 3rd down and RZ TD conversion rate than Alex Smith did on the same team for the first half of the season (citation needed. I've seen these numbers multiple times but can't find them now. It's quite difficult to find these splits when the team had 2 QBs, neither of whom attempted enough passes to qualify). Newsflash, the 49ers have been abysmal in these areas for 2 years across 2 QBs. 2011 3rdD%, 28%, 31st. 2012 35%, 11th. Link.
The stats lead back to the PBP to hear what the 49ers offense is telling us.
Reviewing game tape is like being a lip reader; most words look alike as they silently run across the lips. When in doubt, context spells it out. For example, on 3rd and 6 from the Seattle 20 yard line, the 49er quarterback attempted a pass toward the endzone that fell incomplete. A personal foul is called on the defense. Instead of 4th down from the 20, the play results in a 1st and goal from the 5 yard line. The 49ers were trailing 0-14 at the time. If you were only reading lips, that’s a 49er win. However, circumstantially, the pass was broken up by what was a huge hit that played to the crowd and the teams’ confidence, and also knocked the star 49ers tight end out of the game with a concussion. That’s not a 49er win. In fact it’s a huge play for the home team. On top of that, 4 plays later a 49er field goal attempt would be blocked and returned for a Seahawk touchdown. That’s why the play-by-play is here. For your reference. To facilitate a feel for the game flow, down and distance, circumstances, momentum, game changing plays, decision making, all that doesn't quite show up in the stat line. Eventually, as the Slow Starts begin to pile up, the series could be restructured towards any indicators this process finds. As it is now, it's a fact-finding mission.
Before we get to the tape, let's set the scene with some cherry-picked stats and figures:
- JSmith, 185 consecutive starts since 2001. Out with torn triceps.
- 49ers average defensive snaps weeks 1-14, 62. In Week 15, 92. The most in an NFL non-OT game since 2002. The following defenders played all 92 snaps (+ special teams): Bowman +7, Willis +13, Goldson +12, Whitner.
- RW, week 7 at SF: 9/23, 122, 1 INT, 38.7pr, in what was/is his worst start. Since then, leading up to this game; 66.3 comp%, 13 TD, 2 INT, 111.3pr. With a 114 rating at home.
- Rookie CB Lane played for Suspended CB Browner (PEDs). He would be primarily be matched up on Randy Moss.
- Kaep came in to the game with a 104 rating.
- The 49ers defense were still #1 in points allowed, despite the Brady-flurry the week prior.
- Maybe under the radar a bit, the Seahawks defense was #2 - and the team was coming off consecutive +50 point wins.
Quickly, here's a reorientation to my short-hand
1/10 (1st and 10).
From SF 35 (from the SF 35 yard line).
Under Center (Keap under center).
I/F, I-f (I Formation; Keap under center, 2 backs straight behind).
Pistol (Keap 4 yards back with a RB in either hip pocket).
Diamond/Dmnd (Pistol, 3 RBs in diamond formation around Keap. 1 in his left and right hip pockets and one deep set behind him, I try to tell you who's where if it seemed to matter).
Shotty/Shotgun (Pistol either empty set, without a RB, or a RB deep behind him. For readability, because Keap never takes a traditional 7 yard shotgun snap, calling it Shotty lets you know where the backs are/n't).
Y/L (yard line).
PA (Play action fake).
ZBS (zone blocking scheme run by Seattle. It creates a telling flow to the run game).
OT/RT/LT - RG/LG (Rush play, off tackle or off left/right tackle/guard)
INC (Incomplete pass).
DOG (Delay of game)
UR (Unnecessary roughness)
Seattle (Dregs of society). Hehe.
OK. Let's read those PBP lips: (Ctrl+F Drive Chart to skip the hard core PBP and move to the truncated PBP with greater color analysis of the 49ers offense with Seattle excluded, largely. The PBG is always here for you to reference).
SF First Drive
SF receives; LMJ returns it to SF 17.
1/10, SF 17; under center, PA, deep to MM. INC. Unremarkable.
2/10; Dmd, Crab hook Sherman defended. Generic route. INC.
3/10; Shotgun. Pass to Crab, a bit high and behind, right through his hands at 8 yards.
Punt; 10 yards, Leon W. to 50.
Seattle First Drive
Brock punched somebody, moves it from the 50 to the SF 35.
1/10, SF 35; Flat to miller. 11yds.
2/9, 26; Lynch right at JSmith (-). ZBS OT. Nobody touched him. Aldon couldn’t get off his block, grabbie. Touchdown.
SF Second Drive
LMJ takes it out to the 20.
1/10, SF 20; Under center, I-f. Gore L, 0yds.
2/10; Keap scrambles up the gut for 7. Nobody open.
3/2; Pistol. LMJ Left tackle. Pulled Iupati and Boone. Short gain, first down?
1/10; 30; Play clock ran out, DOG avoided via timeout. Possibly related to short gain, I thought they were going to measure it. Maybe GRo did too.
1/10; I-F. PA, look left, checks down to Miller L flat, -2 yards.
2/11; 4 wide, shotgun. Clemons whooped Staley, flushed Keap right then chased him down. Keap was smoothly rolling out with Clemons closing in, Keap turns on the jets and begins to pull away but didn’t outrun Clemons desperation grab. 8 yard gain.
3/3; 36; Screen to Gore. Blown up. INC. Keap threw it away.
PUNT. Fair catch. SEA 14. 9:40.
Seattle Second Drive
1/10, SEA 14; Dive off RG, 6 yards before Lynch is touched.
2/3; PA, deep pass, jump ball, Baldwin on Rodgers, great coverage, lucky catch, hit face mask then bobbled. 43 yard gain.
1/10; SF 36; DOG avoided by t/o. RW is a rookie, ya know.
1/10, Sweep left at Soapoago.
2/9, SF 35; shotgun, PA L, pass to sideline right, Rice on Rodgers. First down.
1/10, Dive right, 1yd.
2/9, SF 19; Sweep left, gashed for 8. Got Aldon moving then pushed him out. ZBS gets DLine moving then Lynch cuts up.
3/1; Pistol. Designed QB keeper to right, slides after 3 yards. Easy 1st down.
1/G, 9; Shotgun, rush off L Tackle, RJF stopped it.
2/G; Pistol, Pass to Lynch wide open at the 3 running in to the endzone. Touchdown. 3 man pressure. Rodgers and Bowmn talking on the sideline afterward. Bow got dragged away from the play covering underneath route, Rodgers and Brown were both over the top.. staring at the TD. 49ers run an assignment defense, 1 mistake leaves a guy wide open. Do your job. 14-0.
SF Third Drive
LMJ returns kick out to SF 35.
1/10, SF 35; Under center, confused getting set. Dive to Gore off Left tackle. Kam C. makes a great play, quickly diagnoses it from the far side, knifes across the formation and strips Gore. 3 Hawks had a chance at it. SF recovered. +4yds.
2/6; Pass. Time to throw. Right hash, in-route by Davis. 27yds. Big swing after what could have been a turnover.
1/10, SEA 34; Under center, I-form. Dive Gore, 4 yards.
2/6; Confusion getting set again, t/o called as play clock expired. It didn't seem to be because of noise. 2 t/o so far tonight to avoid penalty.
2/6, Sea 30; Under center, Gore up gut, blocking looked good but collapsed in middle, no hole. -1yd. Tafoya microphone antics on sideline. I guess it is loud.
3/6; DOG! -5 yards. Got into formation, just didn't get it off. There's a minor lack of play clock awareness. Like Keap isn't ever looking at it.
Now, from the huddle, Keap is looking at sideline motioning for greater tempo on the play calling.
3/11, Sea 35; Pistol, 4WRs, Steps up in the pocket, finds room to his left, hits Crab crossing underneath, 1st Down. Hit him short of the sticks on the left, Crab ran for the line of gain going out of bounds.
1/10, SEA 19; Compressed I, under center. Complete to DWalker right hash, 4 yards.
2/6, SEA 20; Under center, PA, fade to MM deep right side. Completed, but stepped out of bounds. On Sherman. Pass was a yard too far outside. MM had him beat.
3/6; Under center, Straight drop. Davis wheel route up right side, wide open in the second window. Keap, bad time for the rare floater - gets Vernon killed. PF on Kam. Ref announces "defenseless WR". Crown of helmet solidly to shoulder, Davis was airborne. Play results in a 1st and goal from the 10. Vernon, concussion, out.
1/G, 10; Pretty counter underneath to Gore off RT, with Keap and LMJ faking sweep left (same play from NE).
End quarter. 0-14.
2/G, Sea 5; I-f; student body left QB keeper. 7 yards.
3/G; Looking for Moss in endzone. CB Lane played over the top, ET and a LB dropped underneath. Keap checked to Crab far side coming across. INC, defended by Sherman. ET was baiting Keap for a pick 6. Then, progressing to his right, Keap leaves the pocket for no reason, delaying his pass to Crab. Had he planted his feet and sped through his reads, easy 6.
FG blocked by Red Bryant. Sherman runs it 90 yards for TD. Crowd goes wild.
SF Fourth Drive
LMJ from the goal line, swallowed up at 20. Doesn't go down quickly enough, sometimes, but boy is he a great runner.
1/G, SF 20; Under center, I-F, Miller motion out, Pass right to DW, defended by Sherman, 8 yard attempt.
2/10; DOG (2nd), -5 yards. Keap was under center, shifting the formation. It's like he doesn't see it. Even when the t/o's avoid it, Jim calls those.
2/15; Under center, LMJ deep set, hand off up the gut, 5 yards.
3/10; Pistol, Staley sprints out for a screen Left. It's wide open, nobody is there to block. Green pastures. Going to be a huge screen to Gore. Apparently Clemons knows this cuz he grabs a fistful of Gore's jersey and nearly drags him to the ground. Clear penalty, not called. Keap tucks it and throws it away to the other side. INC. Oh, wait, a foul on Staley. Ineligble Rec. Loss of down. 4th Down.
PUNT. 13:00. 20 to 20, Leon runs a deep circle before gaining 4 yards, almost pinned them at the 5.
Seattle Third Drive
1/10, Sea 24; I-F, Trap off R Tackle, Left tackle came across to trap Aldon. +6 yards. Holding! #67. 10 yard penalty.
1/20, SEA 14; Turbin off RT, from Pistol R/O, left to right. 10yds. SEA runs a criss-cross R/O.
2/10; Under center, 4 man rush, screen to Turbin on left hash, blown up! Willis interception. High pass. Tipped.
Game isn't over yet.
SF Fifth Drive (0-21, 11:00, 2nd Qtr)
1/10 from SEA 16; Dmd, Miller, DW, Gore, PA left. Roll right, Miller completed, tackled for loss of 1 by Kam. -1.
2/11; Pistol, Gore left, Bubble screen left to Crab…?? Keap tucks it and slides forward for 2 yards. Inexplicable. Wide open. 2 defenders out there immediately shifted to stacked coverage ~10 yards then ~20 yards off the LOS. Nobody even got in the throwing lane. Ball looked secure in his hand... just can't figure what happened, could have been 6.
3/9; Pistol, Gore, 5 WR in routes, Crab defended by Wagner, 4 yard attempt on 3rd and 9, incomplete. Wagner broke it up.
4/9, Akers, 33 yard FG, right hash, good. 10:19 21-3. Meh.
Seattle Fourth Drive
Long return by Washington, tackle by Akers. SEA 40 yard line.
1/10; SEA 40. Shotgun, fake reverse, Aldon with pressure at RW’s feet, he evades, then dives up middle for loss of 1.
2/11; Shotty, PA. 4 man pressure, evades out of back side, starts rolling left, cuts sharply up field, breaks a Willis tackle and falls forward for 5 yards. Brown injured while being blocked. Leg. Right knee, kicked by a rolling DLmen.
3/6; Empty shotty, 4 man pressure, quick slant, Tate on Brock. Great tackle by Goldson, looks short. 6 yards. First down.
1/10, 50; Shotty, time, rolls right, tackled by Bow right hash. Looking to throw, nobody open. #54 holding. -10 yards.
1/20, SEA 40; Empty shotty, Turbin complete left hash. Brooks got a "great jump". Willis in coverage. Okung shoves Brooks in the back chasing the play. They exchange shots. Entire stadium calling for flag.
2/11. Pistol, PA R/O, completed to Baldwin who’s knee is down immediately, Gold goes to body slam him. Ref’s fault, late whistle, or nobody's fault cuz whistle is inaudible. Cully comes in to cream the guy while Gold is holding him off the ground. Stupid. Ineligible receiver downfield, disregarded, UR penalty on Cully. +15yds. Stupid.
1/10, SF 36; I-F, Lynch at left tackle, 2yds.
2/8; Shotty, Lynch ZBS run right tackle, Aldon comes across formation to make tackle following a pulling Okung, who ignored him. Dumb design, 3 yards.
3/5, SF 31; 4 man pressure up gut, RW flushed to his right, picks up a 1st going out of bounds. Brooks stunted in delayed blitz, flushing RW to his right. He tucks it, runs, then coming down to make the tackle, Rogers was caught against sideline, to hit or not. RW took advantage of the hesitation to squirt along the sideline for the extra yards. 1st down. Smart.
1/10, SF 27; Timeout called after getting set to avoid DOG, flag for it was picked up. #2 for him.
1/10; Pistol, Lynch takes R/O to Right vs. Brooks, freezes him, Lynch takes it right past him for 8 yards. Wide open behind Brooks. Funny, Seattle never goes back to that play.
2/2, R/O to Lynch across the formation from R-to-L. The keeper was open to the right, too. We aren't any better vs the R/O than anybody else. Lynch takes it around Aldon who was setting edge, clearly held while Lynch got around him. Again. 15yds.
1/G; 6; under center, Lynch ZBS off right tackle. 3 yards.
2/G, 3; Pistol, Lynch left, R/O, Russ bad decision. Blown up. Keeper was open, instead gave it to Lynch, loss of 2. RW tried to pull it out, couldn’t get it. Lynch almost fumbled. It was open for a TD for RW.
3/G; Pistol, Rogers blitzed RW’s right side, RW threw it over him for a TD to McCoy. Play clock was at 0. Whitner in coverage. McCoy motioned to the slot, ran an out route underneath Rice, Cully went with Rice, Whitner could not get over. It was a pick play, Rogers was coming up to contain RW by design. If he Rogers had not come up, he would have been in position. That’s the value of the R/O. 28-3 1:58
SF Sixth Drive 2:30 2nd Qtr
LMJ. Nice return. 34.
1/10; Pistol, out-route to Crab. 8yds, out off bounds.
2/2 SF 42; Pistol, 3 WRs plus Gore in routes, Slot out to Crab, Sherman on tackle. No huddle now.
1/10, 48; Pstol, Moss on left from slot, straight inside. 20+ yards on rookie Lane.
1/10, Sea 22; No huddle. Pistol, Wright blitzes from over Davis, from Keap’s left edge. Gore looked like he was changing protection, then went up into the line on the right, leaving free blitzer. Sack, -13yds.
2/23; Empty Pistol, Wright gets free around Staley again, Keap flushed right, INC to MM. Wright stunted again. Nice design. Other LB stunted around other side to get in Keap’s face. Down and distance disadvantage for the 49ers. Ears pinned back.
3/23; Pistol, gore, 4 WR, better protected, Keap rolls left into the sideline, thrown away. He was protected, he just decided to roll out. He was still protected while scrambling. Weird decision making. Again we see great comfort rolling out that needs to be balanced by determination to stay in the pocket.
:35 4/23, 54 yard attempt from let hash, Good. 28-6.
Victory formation to close out the half Seahawks to receive 2nd half kick.
Seattle Fifth Drive
1/10, SEA 20; Lynch up the gut at (-)JSmith. ZBS run, stretch out then cutting back.
2/10; Gold in good coverage on Rice. INC.
3/9, Ridiculous scrambling by RW, evades Aldon first who lined up on opposite of usual side, then Brooks was spying, playing center field. Aldon gets pressure and Brooks chased him for 2 chances, nobody even touches him. As it were, only 6 yards. 4th down. Another play that doesn't show up in the box but tells some important things.
Punt. Ginn Fair catch.
SF Seventh Drive
1/10, SF 20; PA, time, Moss 13 yards, hitch route.
1/10, SF 35; I-f. 1:1 Crab on Sherman, fade route. Perfectly floated in. Sherman holding a bit, nice hand fighting. Golf clap by Sherman. @Totally genuine@
1/10, SEA 32; Dmnd, Miller, with OL Kilgore in to block, 6 OLmen. Keap throws deep with time to Moss, floated it in to the endzone straight down the center of the field. Weird. Contact before the catch, no call, Moss hardly looked like he went for it cuz he got bumped off balance before the ball arrived, then Lane grabbed him around the hip with one arm and with the other he pulled down Moss’s right arm. Moss went to the ground, referee right there. Ill advised late throw, ill advised defense, ill advised non-effort, ill advised non-call. Whatever.
Next play, MM blows his knee and turns it over. Bubble screen thrown too far up field, bobbled, MM gets turned around while securing the catch. Get's held up by the CB, then the LB just flops on MM's knees from behind. Really poor tackling effort. A little tiny WR is being help up on the outside, but instead of keeping your feet, going for the big clean-up hit, or doing the smart thing and going for the ball.. you just run over and flop on his legs.
The contest feels like it's over now. 28-6, mid-3rd.
Seattle Sixth Drive
1/10; PA, WR with time, flushed, throws it away.
2/10; Very conservative passing. R/O to Lynch up right side. They do an opposite R/O where RW will go the to the whole other side, basically a bootleg action type of play. Lynch is gashing the defense.
3/2; PA to Lynch, throws it over a pass-rushing Brooks for big gain up the right sideline.
1/10; PA, deep pass. Whitner in coverage on Baldwin. INC in endzone. Guys are talking. Whitner was totally beat, RW threw it too late, gave Whitner time. Jump ball technique, again.
2/10, Beautiful play by RW. Busted protection, evades gut pressure by Aldon, runs past it, pump fakes Brooks into the air even though he was 3 yards past LOS. 9yds.
3/1, SF 4; MRob up the gut, no good. Wow. Generous spot. Not even a measurement.
1/10; Reverse flea flicker for Rice to throw – hits Rogers in the hands on the 10 yard line. Dropped INT.
3/8, Pretty dime to Kearse. First down left sideline. Whitner in "coverage". .
Next play, dime again to Kearse on Brown in endzone, tough catch, INC.
Whitner then lays a big hit on a Miller reception – it’s amazing how different it is when the tone has already been set by the other side.
3/6; 11 yards, pick play on Willis, pass to Turbin. Seattle running a lot of pick-routes. Like every other team does too.
1/G; PA bootleg right. Lots of that too.
TD, great pass to Baldwin on Rogers in corner of endzone. From slot.
RW really relies on high-pointing WRs. Ball skills are expensive. 49ers don’t have a single player on defense with great ball skills besides Brown, but he’s their shortest guy. Teams started to just throw it up. It’s a lot easier to design plays that don’t have to get fully open WRs. The high-low, deep-back shoulder option really puts the defense in a quandary if QB is willing to just toss it up. Balls skills for hire.
It’s a blowout now. 6-35
SF Eighth Drive
1/10; Garret Celek up the hash, hung out to dry, almost killed by Kam, but misses the tackle going for the hit. 37yds.
1/10; INT dropped by Lane – would have been huge pick 6 cutting under an out. Moss caught the tip. Great example of a completed pass in the books that is misleading.
2/4; Celek again.
1/10 25; overthrow to Crab. INC.
2/10; Gore inside hand off for huge yards. Boone pulled left, Gore to 6.
1/G; Pistol, Moss lone up top. Gore left pocket, Miller motions from r-l, Celek on los, DW off the line, Miller behind them. 3 TE combo route with Celek, DW, Miller.
Miller runs an out in the flat, Celek to back of endzone. DW hitches between them – both guys in end zone covered by 2 defenders. INC out of bounds.
2/G; Under center, Student body left to LMJ, 2 pulling OLmen. No gain.
End of 3rd. 35-6
3/G; Pistol, Gore right pocket. Interception by Sherman. Within 2 seconds Celek and Crab are open, Keap pulls it down. Keap rolls right, aims for Moss floating across the back R-to-L. Just a regular old RZ interception.
OK, that'll do for the PPB section.
49er Drive Chart and Analysis
49ers first 6 drives: punt, punt, blocked FG returned for TD, punt, field goal, field goal.
1st drive: From SF 17. 3 plays, 00:31, 0 yards, punt. 3 Pass, 0 Run.
3 consecutive incomplete passes, then punt. Crab dropped the 3rd down pass 2 yards shy of the sticks.
2nd drive: From SF 20. 6 plays, 4:08, 17 yards, punt. 2 Pass, 4 rush, 0 penalty.
Keap scrambled twice for medium gains, After a 3rd and 3 LMJ first down, the next play didn’t get in fast enough, forcing a timeout called to avoid DOG on 1/10. I thought they were going to measure, maybe the coaches did too, would be reasonable issue getting the call in. The Seahawk defense wins the next few downs to force a punt.
3rd drive: From SF 35. 11 plays, 5:21, 62 yards, blocked FG. 5 Pass, 5 Rush, 2 Penalty.
This was the plagued drive. Down 14-0 in the 1st, LMJ takes the kick off out to the 35. Kam causes a fumble on the 1st play by stripping Gore. Wonderful bit of football where he knifed across the formation after a quick diagnosis. Ball squirted out from under 3 Hawks before 49ers recovered. +4yds. Next play; 27yd deep-in to Davis. Big swing. Next play, 2nd timeout called to avoid a DOG. Then, 2 plays later on 3/6, DOG(!) penalty for no good reason.-5yds. Crab converts the subsequent 3/11 with a few YAC. 2 plays later on 2nd and 6 MM whips Sherman on a fade from the SEA 20 yard line. Placed just a yard too far outside, MM catches it going out of bounds. Then, an illegal hit on a defenseless WR gives the 49ers a 1/G from the 5. The hit would concuss Davis and take him out of the game. Some great defense ensued until 3rd and goal. Keap is again looking Moss’s way in the left corner of the endzone. The Hawks were bracketing Moss with the rookie CB Lane, in for the suspended Browner (PEDs, drank from the wrong cup I suppose), using over the top/outside leverage and ET underneath along with LB. It wasn’t open for even a wink. ET was baiting Keap, woulda been a pick-6. Keap pulls it down and beings sliding out of the pocket to his right, going through progressions until seeing Crab floating across the back of the endzone heading the opposite direction, right-to-left. Keap is a second too late, had he gotten it out on time Crab had Sherman beat. As it were, Sherman defended a pass that made Crab stop for it. This is why I like watching tape. First off, you can see what Seattle was doing to take advantage of Keap forcing it to Moss as we saw in NEngland. Then, it is clear Keap was not pressured. He’s very mobile and throws beautifully on the run, he’s obviously very comfortable on the run. However, this was one case where had he planted his feet and sped through his progressions he had an easy touchdown to Crab. He didn’t have move off his spot, not one bit. The following play was the blocked FG and a 0-21 deficit, all by the 3rd snap of the 2nd quarter. Besides simply great defense, the summary of the drive included snafus in clock management; a 2nd timeout called in the 1st quarter to avoid a DOG, followed by a DOG penalty on 3rd and 6. Make no mistake about it, despite the minor issues SF was giving themselves, as Collins put in his once-a-year smart comment, "Everybody knows coming in that San Francisco has the #1 scoring defense in football; what people seem to overlook is that Seattle, right behind them, is the #2 defense." Seattle’s 2ndary is quite good enough to give the 49ers issues, especially on 3rd down and in the RZ, it appears.
4th drive: From the SF 20. 3 plays, 1:13, 1 yard, punt. 2 Pass, 1 Rush, 1 Penalty.
Play calling has been good, mostly. On 2/10 Keap garner’s the 2nd DOG penalty. Then after a quick LMJ scamper, GRo calls a pretty screen to Gore on 3rd and 9, it is blown up by Clemons grabbing Gore preventing his release. Little things. The play goes down in the books as an INC attempt to DWalker with a nullified "ineligible receiver down field" on Staley. Well, Staley was so far down field because when he released to block the screen it was open pasture as far as his little butt could run. Clemons, prolly knowing this, slyly grabs Gore's jersey. Seeing this, Keap looks to his right and throws is out of bounds past DWalker. 49ers don’t seem to do well against teams willing to push the envelope.
But it’s not over yet. With plenty of time left in the game, down 21-0, Willis intercepts Wilson after Turbin tips a slightly over-thrown screen pass. Setting SF up for 1/10 from SEA 16. A quick-response circumstance GRo has usually succeeded in. A quick TD here would make it 7-21 with more than 10:00 left in the 2nd quarter.
4th drive: From SEA 16. 3 plays, 1:32, 1 yard, field goal. 2 Pass, 1 Rush.
This would be another frustrating fit of impotence. First play, out of the Diamond with Miller in the right hip pocket and DWalker in the left, with Gore deep; Keap fakes P/A left and rolls right. He checks down to Miller who catches the pass for -1 yards, tackled by Sherman.
2/11; Pistol, Gore left pocket; bubble screen Left to Crab, it’s wide open. The 2 defenders immediately shift to stacked coverage, one guy ~10 yards off the other ~15 deep. With no defender in the throwing lane Keap looks out there, but tucks it and slides into the muck for 2 yards. Inexplicable.
3/9, SEA 15: Rare 5 WRs in routes. Keap checks down to Crab who’s defended by Wagner about 5yds short of the stick. Incomplete. FG. 3-21. ARRGH.
5th drive: From SF 33. 7 plays, 1:27, 31 yards, field goal. 6 Pass, 0 Rush.
After another TD drive by RW, down 28-3 GRo abandons the run. No huddle now, and after a few nice pass plays it’s 1/10 from the SEA 48.
1/10, SEA 48; Gore can be seen trying to check the protection from Keap’s left hip, whatever happened it was wrong, because Gore slid to his right in front of Keap leaving Wright unabated for a -13 yard sack. Timout; SF.
2/23: Seattle has the clear advantage circumstantially, just pinning their ears back now, up 28-3 with 1:00 in the half. SEA is really turning up the blitz creativity. Blitzing a LB stunt around Staley results in Keap flushing right, but astutely, Seattle has their ILB stunting around the other side right into Keap’s face. Incomplete pass.
3/23; With protection issues fixed, Keap has time to survey a 4WR pattern out of trips-right. Gore picks up the blitz to his right, yet, again, Keap slides out of the pocket willingly, this time to his left. He eventually gets outside of everybody then crams himself between the sideline and a defender who would be blocked if Keap stayed behind his blocker, before throwing it away. Akers kicks a 54 yard FG.
SEA kneels on it taking a 28-6 lead into the half.
Half Stats and Figures
- Gore came in averaging +4ypc. In the first half: 5 rushes(!), 10 yards.
- Keap: 8/19, 85, 0/0 1 sack, 55.8r
- RW: 8/9, 98, 2/1, 1 sack, 112r. Sack metric seems off, he took losses scrambling up the gut more than once.
- SF, 36 rushing, 100 passing. 3/8 on 3rd down, 1 via penalty. 0/2 in RZ, 1 blocked FG, 1 FG.
- Seattle, 108 rushing, 197 passing. 8/9 on 3rd down. RZ TD% was better than 0.
- 49ers were still #1 in points coming in. Last 4 quarters, 49ers defense: 593 yards, 59 points allowed.
- Seadderall: 136-26 over last 10 quarters.
- Seattle were 2nd team ever to hold 24 point leads in 3 consecutive first halves.
1st Half, Game Management:
- 2 DOGs, 2 timeouts to avoid further penalty. Note here that Jim is the guy calling the t/o's to avoid DOG's. Keap doesn't seem to notice the play clock, or is coached not to. Michelle Tafoya reports Jim says he will simply the play-calling to speed up the tempo for the 2nd half. Huh.
- RW also called 2 timeouts to avoid DOG penalties. Note that his TD pass to TE McCoy was snapped a moment after playclock went to 0. Keap wasn't the only one struggling to get the play off.
In a cheeky piece of theatre, the broadcast showed the action reel for Aldon’s first half – if you watched it on mute you might have thought they were showing you a string of Okung holding penalties.
The 49ers, down only 3 scores, were still in this football game after the half. That is, until Leroy Hill belly-flops onto the back of MM’s legs tearing his ACL, causing MM to give the ball up. Leading up to that, Seattle had received the kick and gone 3 and out. Here’s what the 49ers offense did coming out of the half after the Seattle punt, before the devastating fumble. It includes some solid adjustments.
49ers 5th Drive: From SF 20. 4 plays, 1:40, 48 yards, fumble. 4 Pass, 0 Rush.
1/10; P/A pass to Moss on a deep hitch to the left. 13 yards.
1/10, SF 33; Fade to Crab completed over Sherman. Great pass, great route, over great defense. Sherman doesn’t hand-fight, he grabs fitfully at the jersey, hip, shoulder pad, whatever blink of an advantage he can get. But he can’t cover Crab. Lofted over the shoulder, 35 yards. First sighting of Sherman's totally genuine golfclap.
1/10, SEA 32; Incomplete post-route to Moss in the endzone, triple-coverage. Play is notable for 2 reasons. First, Kilgore lined up in a 3 point stance at right H-Back. This was a protection adjustment that worked. SEA was stunting LBs around the tackles, so GRo put an extra man there making it 6 OLman in to block. Keap had all day on a P/A pass. The 2nd notable thing is that Moss is clearly, if subtly, interfered with. The CB covering him bumps him before the ball gets there knocking him off balance, then in one smooth motion grabs Moss’ left hip and pulls down his right arm. Moss falls to the ground and the pass falls incomplete. Ref standing right there. 28-13 after 3 plays of the 3rd, or at least 1st and Goal..? Much different that what ensued..
Next play, MM blows his knew out and gives up the ball. It’s a bubble screen that’s tightly contested. Keap may have thrown it too far up-field. MM bobbles it and gets turned around fighting with the CB as he catches it, the LB comes out and just belly-flops on the back of MM’s legs. It was a pathetic looking attempt at a tackle. You see so many ACL injuries that happen in these circumstances, but usually it’s a skillful knifing tackler, not some dude just flopping on the legs. I think it stands out because a LB would normally either lay a big hit or go for the ball with a held up WR; not run over and plop onto the back of his legs. Jenkins was in active tonight. Keep it down, fellas.
Seattle got the ball back with 10:00 left in the 3rd and went on a 15 play 68 yard TD drive to make it 6-34. Though out of hand at this point, the 49ers responded by moving the ball quickly, 5 plays 65 yards to the SEA 5 for a 1st and goal. Red zone execution is still red zone execution. On that note, Kapernick would throw an interception to Sherman on the first play of the 4th quarter. I will add the sequence from the 5 because it shows a certain level of ineptitude. Here is that RZ possession.
1/G SEA 5; Incomplete attempt to Celek. Pistol Gore left pocket. Moss alone out wide to the right. DW and Celek bunched on the left, Celek on the LOS, DW a yard off outside of Celek. Miller motions from the right-slot position to a join the other TEs in bunched trips-left. At the snap, Gore stays in to block. Miller sprints to the flat underneath, behind the TEs release, leaving DW and Celek to combo-route in the endzone. It looks like it has the making of a solid RZ play. But it flops. DW goes up-and-out and pivots on the goaline with Celek running deep behind him. It’s a 3-level combo with Miller underneath at the 5 and DW on the goal line. The problem is, with 6 49ers blocking 4 SEA pass rushers, there are 4 defenders in the endzone covering 2 guys. Moss was singled up on Sherman. Maybe the coaches wanted Celek to get some shine, he had made 2 nice catches for 40 yards already. The pass to Celek sails out of bounds.
2/G; Kaep under center, LMJ deep, Miller to his left-front, DW at his front-left in H-back, so the backs are like one side of a pyramid from Staley to LMJ. Moss alone out left. Student body left to LMJ. Both Boone and Davis pulling all the way across, Celek released from their side up the field to the 2nd level. Clemons set the edge way outside taking up DW and Miller. LMJ pops out way too quickly, dragging the defense with him into the hole before the pulling OLmen can get up there. LMJ stretches it out till there’s a pile up. 2 yard gain. End of 3rd. 35-6.
3/G from the 3; Pistol, Gore right pocket. On right side, Celek at TE, DW in slot to his right, Moss out to his right further out wide. Crabtree alone wide left. 4 man pressure, 7 in coverage. SEA runs a stunt getting guys free around the edges. Crab and Celek run hooks at the goal line while Gore does the same. So 3 guys standing at the goal line from left sideline to right hash. They are open when they turn around. Out on the right, DW and Moss are crossing high-low, DW shallow out in the endzone, who's also prolly open as he makes his cut. Moss along the back of the endzone going right-to-left. Keap is flushed right, throws on the run to Moss. Same exact play Sherman broke up against Crab earlier. Interception by Sherman. Keap was pressured, though. Cross body passes from the 10 yard line may fall under ill-advised.
Just a regular old young-guy RZ INT.
49ers did eventually score 1 touchdown with 1:47 left in the game. Total garbage time. It took 4 downs from the 11 yard line – which was actually 5 attempts because ADavis was flagged for driving a CB into the ground in the endzone on a play that didn’t score. On the next play DWalker caught a deep-right pass for 6 from 18 yard line. Apparently all they need is a bit of space.
Clock Management (DOG) Summary
Timeout (called by Jim) on 1st and 10 from SF 27 in the 1st quarter. No impact on the drive.
Timeout (called by Jim) on 2nd 6 from SEA 34. No impact on the drive.
DOG penalty 2 play later on 3rd and 6. Resulted in 3rd and 11; next play Crabtree 1st down.
DOG penalty on 2nd down from SF 20. LMJ would get 6 yards then drive killed when Clemons grabbed Gore on a screen attempt that would have gone for big gain.
Timeout (called by Jim) on 2nd and 23 after a sack at SEA 36 near end of half. Drive resulted in a 54 yard FG.
Timeout (called by Jim) on 1st and 10 from SEA 11. 2:23 4th quarter. After a sweet pass to LMJ for a 1st down, the play simply didn’t get in on time.
3rd Downs: 4/11
RZ TD: 1/4
Nothing to see here. Looking at this in a vacuum, Seattle played very well, the 49ers made many minor errors. If I had to point to any concern going forward it's obviously clock management and crucial situation football.
From Kaep's perspective, the only 2 items that may be worrisome were his desire to force the ball to certain guys (Moss, in this case) and his minor lack of determination to hang in the pocket. He rolls out so smoothly, though. Outside of the few occasions where planting his feet and speeding his progressions may have resulted in a better play, it's hard to knock a guy for making use of his athletic advantages. On that note, I thought I saw a clear RZ TD to Crab that this quality effected. Against a very good secondary, hanging in the pocket may produce better results than throwing on the run.
In terms of Moss, forcing him the ball was so predictable the defense had already adjusted to it. Keap was baited a few times, one time successfully where rookie CB Lane dropped a sure pick-6 very late in the game (35-6) that resulted in a Moss reception off the tipped ball.
But again, it's sort of a wash. Seattle could not have asked for a greater competitive advantage. We all know the fatigue of the defense coming off the NE game. 92 snaps the week before, compounded by key injuries, heading into the loudest stadium in the NFL with a QB with just a handful of starts up against a very good secondary is just asking for trouble. I will say that Seattle took full advantage of JSmith's absence. Running right at where he would be. The ZBS scheme is not popular in the NFL because it's hard to adjust from it when facing a guy like JSmith - who blows it up. But when he's injured...
We also heard GRo say after the GB Keapernicking display, that the offense kept some cards in their pocket this game. Whether that's true or not (and I do believe it's true), this game and the particular shortcomings are there for us all to see. It's not like the 49ers were playing half-speed. The Seahawk defense played masterfully. The had a great plan and executed with intensity. Interestingly enough, this week was less of a Slow Start candidate than the week prior. There were far fewer miscues offensively, what we saw was a much better defense.
When MM went down, that left the 49ers without him or VDavis and an inactive WR not there to take up the slack. Moss was force fed again. To me, it really looked like Keap is an athletic confidence guy in a bit of awe of Moss. Because suddenly Celek was inserted late in the 3rd and he saw a lot of action. Meaning, there are guys there to trust, so what's the deal with forcing throws? Going forward, this chemistry is a primary concern, since it's all new WRs to start the season.
The DOG issues really didn't kill any drives. What killed drives were mostly great defense and an early deficit that allowed a fast defense to pin their ears back and make Keap throw into 7 men in coverage. Gore only had 5 carries in the first half and 6 for the game. PFF rated this games 49ers run-blocking performance as one of the best all year by any offensive line. (+3.2 grade). PFF said the OL allowed just two hits and five hurries (the sack was credited to Kaepernick for holding onto the ball too long). So, this is why I point to Seattle's defense, intensity, and other advantages in terms of Slow Starts. Even with the good OL play, once you are 1-dimensional against a great defense on the road, with a young QB, what's to do?
Don't forget that Seattle had a great offensive game plan. I'm not touching on it much at all, but they were able to keep drives alive on the ground, Rushing for 39 attempts. They augmented this with savvy R/O, QB roll-outs, and some aggressive passing by RW. His coaches put the game in his hands once they got a big lead and he played masterfully. Very accurate, great decision making, wonderful in almost every throw, and hard to lay a hand on. If you have questions about the Seattle offense, I can answer those questions because what they were doing was interesting enough to stick in my mind.
The analysis is pointing me in a certain direction, something I touched on up top, 3rd down and RZ TD efficiency. The Slow Start is going to half to dredge this aspect out, because, as I mentioned, I'm having a hard time sussing out the splits for a QB who played half the games yet didn't attempt enough passes to qualify. The team stats are there, but that includes another QB. So this will be a point of interest moving forward, not only in the Slow Starts series but going into next year for the 49ers. Maybe this is why Mangini was hired?
OK. Please leave rec's, comments, suggestions, questions and some frickin' beer coupons. Till next time.