FanPost

Why do the Seahawks give us such fits?

In Week 1 of this season we got the Green Bay Packers at home and Anquan Boldin went buck wild catching 208 yards worth of passes and 1 TD. Colin Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and 3 TDs and it looked for all the world like our passing game was gonna rock the league despite the absence of Michael Crabtree (torn achilles).

BUT THEN...

This happened: The following week, we went up to Century Link Field in Seattle (The Clink) and got our bums handed to us, losing 29-3. Our passing game was perhaps the most ineffective of any 49er passing game ever. Kap threw for only 127 yards 0 TDs and 3 interceptions. Anquan Boldin caught only 1 pass for 7 yards. Not only that but our running game was demolished as well with Frank Gore only achieving 16 yards on 9 attempts. What the bleep happened?

Well, we figured it must have been the absence of Crabtree and the fact that this allowed the stellar secondary of Seattle to double team our other receivers and such. 'It can't be the Offensive Line. They're Number One.'

Turns out it WAS our offensive line, at least to a great extent. Any defense in the NFL will drop back as many defenders as they can in coverage provided they can still achieve a reasonably effective pass rush with the few linemen left dedicated to that task. Kap couldn't find an open receiver because Seattle had 7 players back in coverage on most, if not every passing play

Taking a look at Pro-Football Focus' rankings over the course of the season, we see an immediate drop from #1 to #14 in the first quarter of the season. Some improvement was realized as the season went on but not enough to change the defensive strategy employed by Seattle in the NFC Championship last Sunday at The Clink when they dropped back all but 4 pass rushers on every 49er passing play..

1st Quarter:

14. San Francisco 49ers: +1.3

Stud: He’s not reached the heights of last year but Joe Staley (+5.2) is still playing well.

Dud: You have to wonder if the team will re-sign Jonathan Goodwin (-3.9) after the year. He’s serviceable, but do they think they can do better?

Summary: The best line in the league last year hasn’t been the best in 2013. They’ve not got the same level of play out of Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis and it’s hurting their production on offense.

2nd Quarter:

10. San Francisco 49ers: +19.6 (14)

Stud: While others haven’t managed to maintain their 2012 form, you can’t say that about our top ranked left tackle Joe Staley (+23.6).

Dud: You’d like to see Jonathan Goodwin (-3.0) do a little better in pass protection.

Summary: Whereas last year they were bullying teams, this year they’re trading blows. The outcome is still a 49ers victory, but with their guards not as dominant it’s not quite as emphatic.

Full Season 2013:

11. San Francisco 49ers (1st)*last season ranking
PB: 13th, RB: 4th, PEN: 31st

Stud: Another excellent year from Joe Staley (+27.7) who, after a slow start to life in the NFL, has peaked as an elite left tackle. Exactly what the team had hoped for, with his contract looking extremely 49er-friendly right now.

Dud: A bit of a fall back to Earth year for Alex Boone (-1.9). A revelation last year, he was always somewhat prone to getting beat in pass protection and this year that propelled him to a slightly negative grade.

Analysis: It was by no means terrible, but given what we saw from this unit last year still extremely disappointing. In 2012 they bullied teams and won their matchups with ease. This year they were just very good, making life a little harder for their backs. Credit to them for raising our expectations to the level that even with four of five starters earning positive run blocking grades, we still want more.

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An even more bothersome ranking is that provided by Football Outsiders which rates our OL as 29th in Run Blocking and 22nd in Pass Blocking.

So where do we go from here? Can we afford to trust that the same players who dominated in 2012 will return to that form? What's our Plan B? Can we boost our O-line back into the top 5 with draft picks this May? How will Colin Kaepernick ever feel comfortable throwing a pass at The Clink when he looks out and sees SEVEN speedy Seahawk defenders spread about the field? How can we make excuses next year when a mere 4 pass rushers again has our QB scrambling for his life in a matter of 2 or 3 seconds?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.

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