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49ers-Seahawks: Nickel and Dimeing ourselves too death

After such a wild game, I like to take some time to take a breath before looking back at the performance.  A win is a win is a win and even more so when it's a divisional opponent who has won that very division four straight seasons.  As long as they've got Holmgren and Hasselbeck, Seattle is a dangerous opponent, as they showed today.

However, after this kind of win, it's important to look back at the mistakes.  I can't make the team make adjustments, but hopefully they recognize what we recognize and adjust accordingly.  I'd been pondering a column on the defense for this week and Bob On The Coast's comment in the recap combined with something in one of the beat writer recaps pushed it up to the day after, instead of later in the week.

Simply put, what was up with all the nickel and dime defense?  During the game it felt like we were seeing a lot of nickel and dime defense and a lack of pass rush.  Turns out there was a reason.  The team played pretty much the entire game in a nickel or dime defense.  One piece of fallout from this, aside from a 5.0 ypc from Seattle running backs?  Manny Lawson didn't play a single defensive snap.  Lawson spent the entire game on special teams as he is not a member of the nickel or dime defense.

Coach Nolan felt going into the game that Seattle would not change their offensive scheme in light of all the injuries, so Nolan figured why change the defensive scheme.  Two season ago when the 49ers beat Seattle on the road they used this same style of defense and pulled off the upset.  They felt they could get enough of a pass rush from the defensive line and contain Hasselbeck.  In regards to the results, Nolan had this to say:

Seattle's got an outstanding offensive scheme.  It would be foolish for them to change and try to go to something else because of some injuries. What I thought they did do effectively was use their young tight end (John Carlson) several times over the middle. We had had him covered, but he still did a very good job.

I have numerous questions about this strategy and the results.  Obviously the win is important so clearly something was working.  At the same time, wouldn't adjustments on defense have made this a little bit easier of a win?  When John Carlson was catching all sorts of passes over the middle and Julius Jones was gashing the 49ers at 4.9 a pop, wouldn't something go off in your head hinting that maybe a change is necessary?

Would using a more traditional 3-4 or 4-3 have contained Carlson a bit more?  This is just speculation, but would an extra linebacker across the middle have kept Carlson in check while bringing more pass rush at the same time?  The team talked about how they used this kind of defense two years ago, but I really understand why you'd play the same way against a beaten down offense like we saw today?

In two games now, the 49ers have employed what might qualify as bend, hopefully not break, but likely will break on occasion style of defense.  While running their nickel and dime defenses, they've been absolutely nickeled and dimed to death by Hasselbeck and Warner.  Hasselbeck struggled in the passing game, but he was still able to make enough plays to make for a long afternoon.  And after an impressive pass rush in the first half last week, the 49ers pass rush has looked abysmal in the six subsequent quarters.

This all comes across as rather negative.  Considering how snake-bitten the 49ers have seemed at times this season, 1-1 is as good as I could expect.  I actually figured they'd have won last week and lost this week, but I won't quibble with where they're at right now.  I just think with some of the offenses they'll be facing this season, the defense will need to perform much better.

Considering the talent in the division, the NFC West remains very winnable for all parties involved, except probably St. Louis.  Seattle will be getting back Branch and Engram and is probably at rock bottom in terms of injuries.  Considering the Three Stooges nature of the 49ers performance last week, it's hard to tell where Arizona stands, aside from 2-0 and in first place.  Considering all the turnovers, the 49ers defense was not all that bad against the Cardinals.  However, repeat performances like today do not win division titles.

I'm awaiting some additional info from Nolan via the 49ers PR people so I certainly hope to bring you more solid info in the coming days.  As the offense stepped up today, the defense took a bit of a step back and needs to figure out what's up exactly.  The Lions come to town next week with a big time air attack behind Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams.  They will definitely not nickel and dime us to death.  The 49ers offense is improving, but I'm not sure if they're ready to compete in a track meet with the Lions.