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49ers in the red zone: Looking back, looking ahead

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As we head into the Week 14 matchup with Arizona, red zone troubles were a major culprit for the 49ers.  The Seahawks managed a pair of touchdowns, which certainly bit into the 49ers league-leading red zone pass defense DVOA.  The funny thing is the 49ers are still #1 in red zone pass defense because of how high their number was previously.  It dropped from -120.7% to -97.1%.  The Saints had been a close second, but their less than stellar defensive showing in Washington saw them plummet as well, although they also remain in second place.

One of the biggest momentum changers in the game was Frank Gore's fumble.  Technically it occurred outside the red zone, on the Seahawks 22 yard line.  However, given that we already call that The Vernon Zone, we'll count this fumble as having occurred in the Vernon Zone.  That one hurt as much as any other mistake given that the 49ers were driving to take the lead.

The 49ers head into week 14 against a team that has struggled against tight ends (scroll down to their #23 defense vs. tight ends).  Could this mean a continued dominance in the Vernon Zone by its namesake?  Vernon Davis is passing 49ers TE record holders left and right and will be looking to put on a show under the primetime lights.  The folks at Revenge of the Birds seem especially worried about containing Davis (as seen in article 1 and article 2).

Vernon is coming off a game in which he had a couple huge drops that were rather publicized.  Normally I'd be worried about a player's psyche, but Davis seems to be able to quickly push that kind of stuff out of the way.  We might see some drops again, but we're most likely also going to see some huge plays from Davis.  I was skimming through one of the RotB articles and it said:

Over the course of this season the Cardinals have given up over eight touchdowns to tight ends. This has been a problem for them the past few seasons and will be one the Niners will be sure to test against them on Monday night. In the seven games the Cardinals have matched up with Davis they have contained him pretty well holding him to just over 250 yards and 3 touchdowns. They haven't faced him since they changed to a spread offense however, so this will surely be a test for the Cardinals safeties as they will need to shut him down if they want to lock up the division.

I realize Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle are very solid safeties and have to be respected.  At the same time, I would love to see the safeties matched up with Vernon.  Unless they're covering him straight off the line, it could mean we'll get a linebacker trying to cover The Disease off the line.  If said LB doesn't get help over the top, it could mean big things for Davis.  And even if he's dealing with Rolle or Wilson all game long, it'd certainly give us a chance to see what he can do against a solid pair of safeties.  I took a quick look at Adrian Wilson's Insider scouting report at ESPN:

He will lose some separation to faster receivers downfield but matches up well with TEs.

We'll see if he loses separation this Monday against one half of the Tainted Twosome.