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49ers-Seahawks Statistical Review: ...You Make Lemon Pudding

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Needless to say, so much has happened since the Seahawks game that reviewing the game stats seems like a collosal waste of time. Not so. My preview focused on a simple question: Will Singletary's motivational skills end up reversing the 49ers' four-year trend of underachievement. While the jury is still out on long term effects, they've reached a unanimous verdict on the Seahawks game. If Singletary's getting the 49ers playing like they're supposed to be, it sure as hell didn't show up last Sunday. The 49ers didn't just underachieve; they underachieved more than any other game thus far this season. When life gave them lemons, they made lemon pudding.

Just to statistical preview of the Seahawks game suggested that the 49ers have been perennial underachievers during the Nolan Era, and that 2008 may just be the most underachieving of them all. Furthermore, in September's game against the Seahawks, they won on the road despite performing, in total, 32.2% below expectation during the course of the game. The fact that they could beat a team despite playing poorly was, or so I thought, a signal that the 2008 49ers were an improvement over recent incarnations. I was wrong. It was instead a gigantic warning that this team was playing with fire. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the Seahawks game "pudding" was pretty inedible.

After the jump, I taste the pudding...

Here are the team efficiency (DVOA) ratings for the 49ers-Seahawks game:

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: +25.6% OVERALL, +17.7% OFF, -4.0% DEF, +3.9% ST

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: -50.2% OVERALL, -30.1% OFF, +26.4% DEF, +6.3% ST

The bottom line here is that, not surprisingly, the Seahawks played much better than average, especially on offense. Also not surprising was that the 49ers played much worse than average, with a stench emanating from both sides of the ball.

When we compare the 49ers' game DVOA with that of the Seahawks, we get the following differences:

-75.8% OVERALL, -34.1% OFF, -44.1% DEF, +2.4% ST

Yikes!!! Remember, what these numbers mean. On any given play during the Seahawks game, the 49ers performed about 75% worse than the league average. If the average gain on a 1st and 10 pass from a team's own 20 yard line is 5 yards , then the 49ers offense got 1.25 yards against Seattle. That, my fellow 49er fans, is pretty bad pudding.

Now we know just how below average the Niners played this week. Looking back at my preview of the game, here's how the Niners were supposed to play against the Seahawks, given their respective DVOAs going into the game.

+12.5% OVERALL, -0.8% OFF, +11.0 DEF, +2.3% ST

As you can see, except for special teams, the 49ers should have actually performed better than average overall, and against the Seahawks offense. If we compare these numbers, which are how they were supposed to perform, with the earlier numbers showing how they actually did perform, we can quantify just how bad the 49ers underachieved against the Seahawks:

-88.3% OVERALL, -33.3% OFF, -55.1% DEF, +0.1% ST

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a snapshot of the Nolan Era 49ers, and proof that Mike Singletary has a monumental task ahead of him when trying to motivate this team. Old habits die hard, and the 49ers have been addicted to underachievement for three and a half years.

Another thing this level of 49er underachievement suggests is that the underachieving win against the Seahawks earlier this year was, in fact, a fluke. The first Seahawks game in 2007 showed similar underachievement (-85.0%), and the 49ers lost that game by almost the exact same margin (20). Like we say in sport psychology, the best predictor of future performance is past performance.

For those people with extremely optimistic fan disorder (EOFD; thanks montasmob69), one last thing I'll point out here is that the Seahawks game represented the highest level of underachievement the 49ers have displayed this season. In fact, it was a full 40% worse than the Giants game. Wait, that means that the last two games have been their worst; not exactly a sign that things are improving.

So how did they stoop this low against the Seahawks? Some clues reside in the situations I mentioned in my preview where the 49ers' strengths matched up well with the Seahawks' weaknesses, and vice versa: red zone and 3rd down plays.

On 3rd and 4th down with 3-6 yards to gain, the 49ers defense ranks 3rd while the Seahawks offense ranks 29th. There were 4 of these plays during the game (successful plays for the 49ers are italicized):

(1) 3rd & 6 @ SF 35, 1:45 left in 1Q, Incomplete pass

(2) 4th & 6 @ SF 35, 1:00 left in 1Q, Complete pass for 6 yards, First Down

(3) 3rd & 6 @ SF 25, 14:22 left in 2Q, Run for 10 yards, First Down

(4) 3rd & 3 @ SEA 27, 8:30 left in 4Q, Run for 9 yards, First Down

So basically, the 49ers succeeded only 1 of 4 times on a play that was their supposed strength. Underachievement anyone?

On red zone running plays, the 49ers offense ranks 25th while the Seahawks defense ranks 4th. There were 4 of these plays during the game (successful plays for the 49ers are italicized):

(1) 1st & 10 @ SEA 11, 8:32 left in 1Q, Run for 5 yards

(2) 1st & 10 @ SEA 16, 12:00 left in 4Q, Run for 9 yards

(3) 2nd & 1 @ SEA 7, 11:21 left in 4Q, Run for 3 yards, First Down

(4) 1st & Goal @ SEA 4, 10:41 left in 4Q, Run for 2 yards

Here, the 49ers clearly performed better than expected. The problem? THERE WERE ONLY 4 49ER RUNNING PLAYS INSIDE THE SEAHAWKS 20 YARD LINE!!!

Finally, on 3rd and 4th down with 1-2 yards to gain, the 49ers defense ranks 25th while the Seahawks offense ranks 3rd. There were 2 of these plays during the game (successful plays for the 49ers are italicized):

(1) 3rd & 1 @ SF 36, 11:48 left in 1Q, Run for 1 yard, First Down

(2) 3rd & 2 @ SEA 48, 3:04 left in 3Q, Complete pass for 11 yards, First Down

Here the 49ers played about as bad as they were expected to play.

So, using a golf analogy, on the 3 most crucial holes this past Sunday, the 49ers birdied one hole, parred another, and bogeyed the third. Even par overall right? Wrong. Based on their overall performance during the game, it looks like they bogeyed the other 15 holes.

In summary, the 49ers approached the final frontier of underachievement in their game against Seattle. Will Singletary's motivational tactics change things after the bye? Let's hope there's better pudding on the horizon.