In earlier statistical review posts I have alluded to the notion that I am interested in examining the players that are not getting a ton of headlines. That seems valuable, I think, because it allows us to rethink the last game in new ways and to keep track of players whom we might normally gloss over. Of course, there are going to be some weeks in which I might ignore this guideline. In fact, if Colin Kaepernick could remember how to quarterback again, I'd sure love to sing his praises. I have, like, paeans composed, just lying around and waiting to be sung. That guy's awesome, and it's a bummer when he isn't roaming the Football field like shining-helmeted Hector.
But, today, I'm interested in looking at the run game. No, silly, not that run game. I think it's painfully obvious that Frank Gore should have gotten way more touches. Let's take a lot at the 49ers' run defense.
First off, some basic stats from the Colts' side of things. Ahmad Bradshaw led the day with 95 yards on 19 attempts, one TD, and a long run of 27 yards. That puts him at 5 yards a carry. Ouch. Not great. Newcomer Trent Richardson had 35 yards on 13 carries. Much better, right? But, the real butt-kicker was Bradshaw. While never, perhaps, "taking over" the game at any point, he did grind out effective runs most of the afternoon. PFF gave him a nice, but not excellent, 0.9 rushing grade. This could largely have to do with the fact that Bradshaw was only in the game for 38 plays. Richardson ended with a flat 0.0.
On the 49ers' side of things, though, the run defense looks statistically erratic. For me, one of the two biggest surprises of the day came in the form of Glenn Dorsey. After essentially filling in for Ian Williams, Dorsey put up a nice game with a 1.1 score in the run defense column. I think we can expect more of the same from Mr. Dorsey. In 2011 he had a run defense score of 17.7 for the season (which is quite good - let's just say that Justin Smith in the last few years scored only a few points higher on average) and in 2010 a score of 16.4. With likewise good run defense scores, Ahmad Brooks (1.6) and Patrick Willis (1.3) joined Mr. Dorsey.
But, there were problems in the run defense, and some major ones too. The second of the two big surprises is jointly shared by Justin Smith and NaVorro Bowman. This, I just don't know what to say about this... PFF rated Mr. Smith to an atrocious -2.0 grade, which is very rare for him (with this being the fifth time since 2008 that he has scored a -2.0 or lower); Mr. Bowman, however, received an even worse mark, at -2.9. Ouch. Bowman did end the day with a team-high 9 tackles, though. I don't expect these two men to be reproducing this poor of a performance on a consistent level. They have simply been too good over the course of their careers. But, it's no surprise that the defense has a hard time stopping the run when two of our best players perform so hideously.
One final note: Willis played 48 snaps, generating a run defense score of 1.3. But, after getting injured, his replacement, Michael Wilhoite, had a much worse game. On 24 plays (17 of which were running plays), Mr. Wilhoite scored a -1.2. We had better hope that he can step it up for as long as Willis is absent.