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49ers Improve Play Action DVOA In 2011

The folks at Football Outsiders are wrapping up the 2012 FO Almanac, which means we get a modest reveal of some stats tables looking back at the season that was. Earlier today, Rivers McCown took a look at play-action stats from 2011. FO runs a game-charting project where they break down the nitty-gritty from each game of the previous season. It is not a perfect breakdown given the lack of the all-22 film, but all things considered it's an incredibly helpful project.

In 2011, the 49ers finished 15th in the NFL in terms of using play action. The Texans used the most play-action, while the Buffalo Bills used the least play-action. The 49ers put together some impressive numbers in play-action as they finished fourth in the NFL in DVOA on play action plays. Their DVOA on such plays was 50.5%. For comparison's sake, the 49ers finished 17th in the NFL in DVOA when there is no play action. On the whole, NFL teams used play action 19% of the time.

For comparison's sake, the 49ers play action DVOA in 2009 was -19.6% and in 2010 it was 9.7%. For those who don't read Football Outsiders, negative DVOA on offense is not a good thing. For those who have never been to Football Outsiders, you can read their explanation of DVOA. The basic idea behind DVOA is to break down every play to see how much success a player achieved in each specific situation compared to the league average in that situation, adjusted for the strength of the opponent.

While the 49ers offense had plenty of inconsistencies in Coach Harbaugh's first year, there were still some signs of progress. It is nice to see these kinds of positive stats, but at the same time, it would be nice to have a better idea of why the team was performing better at play action. Getting rid of the 49ers Jimmy Raye offensive scheme would seem to have been a step in the right direction. Beyond that, I can't tell you why it was so drastically improved.

I do know that given the lack of available information, I'm thinking that for 2012, I'd like to do game-charting for all the 49ers games. Game-charting is not a perfect process, but getting some additional information about the 49ers performance next year will be incredibly helpful in helping us understand how the team develops.

For now, I've thought about putting together something on a single 2011 game, just to sort of test out the process. I'll mix in some play action content from a given game to get a better idea of how it works out, but are there any specific things you'd like me to pay attention to on offense? The idea will be to try and get as comprehensive as possible in breaking down what the 49ers did on offense in the game. Whether it be distance of passes from release to catch, who gave up which sacks (or figuring out as close as we can), or whatever, let me know.

I'm looking at just one game for now, but I might mix in a few more from late in the season if possible. Any suggestions on a specific game to chart?