The San Francisco 49ers defense has struggled considerably more on the road than at home, but one area where they have struggled everywhere is getting off the field quickly. Our Jets blog put together a rundown of how NFL defenses compare in forcing three and outs. The 49ers defense ranked dead last, getting a three-and-out on 19.09 percent of opponents' drives.
I decided to take a little bit of a deeper dive into the numbers. GGN did their search at Pro Football Reference using the Drive Finder. You can sort through by a variety of stats, and to figure out the 49ers three-and-outs, GGN looked at all drives that accomplished zero first downs, and the end result was anything except a touchdown, the end of the half, or the end of the game.
I did my own search and had the 49ers getting three-and-outs on 19.64 percent of the drives. Even with the slight adjustment, the 49ers remain at the bottom of the list. I also decided to split it up between home and away. The defense has been on the field for 51 drives at home. In those drives, they have secured ten three-and-outs, which is good for 19.6 percent. For road games, the defense has been on the field for 61 drives. They have secured a three-and-out 12 times, which is good for 19.7 percent. So there really is not a huge difference at home or on the road in that regard.
This lack of three and outs has a ripple effect. The 49ers defense is giving up an average of 36.64 yards per drive (No. 30 in NFL). I do not have a home/away split on that. The average line of scrimmage for the opposing team has been the 27.44 (No. 18 in the NFL). Even when the 49ers defense is getting stops, they are often leading to teams punting in much better field position. The 49ers punt return unit has struggled, but it is getting no help when it is backed up deep.
That in turn leads to the offense starting in poor field position. The 49ers offense has started with an average line of scrimmage of the 22.33 (No. 31 in NFL). The offense then struggles, the defense has to come back on, and it becomes an ugly cycle.