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The 49ers offense is lacking drive

Let's play the blame game, or should that be the Blaine game?

The San Francisco 49ers defense was supposed to be a team strength heading into this year but after shutting out the hapless Rams in the opening game they’ve conceded 83 points against the Panthers and the Seahawks.

This would usually indicate that the defense is performing poorly but while there have been some very costly defensive breakdowns, notably missed assignments in coverage, misaligned run D and a lack of a consistent pass rush, the defense has not been getting much help from the offense.

The defense ranks No. 9 in DVOA, a good position for a young unit. There are some caveats that should be noted: by far their strongest performance is the first game against LA before slipping when faced with Carolina and really struggling in pass defense in Seattle. However, Football Outsiders’ numbers don’t yet include adjustments for strength of opponent so when they kick in we should expect the Rams game to look worse but the Panthers game to be adjusted in our favor. Seattle are a hard one to judge because they often seem to start slowly on offense as they wait for Tom Cable to cobble their line together from the bits of string and chewing gum Schneider hands him each year and Wilson was clearly hobbled early on. I thought Wilson did look a little more mobile against us until Eli Harold’s ugly tackle but we should still expect this game to look better (or at least less awful) by the end of the year because Seattle’s offense has ranked No. 4, No. 7, No. 5, and No. 2 in DVOA since 2012, and that isn’t happening by accident.

But back to the numbers, Football Outsiders compiles a handy set of drive statistics that show just how much the niners’ offense has been failing to hold their end of the bargain.

Starting LOS





30.78 (7)

1.67 (20)

22.17 (32)

0.122 (15)


32.40 (31)

1.93 (16)

26.59 (8)

0.175 (6)

As this shows Gabbert and friends are being given good field position despite the special teams ranking No. 24 in DVOA. This is largely due to the defense doing a good job in creating turnovers and being above average (No. 12) in forcing 3 and outs. The biggest issue is that the offense is doing very little with the seventh best average field position.

And frankly that’s being kind.


3 and Outs/Drive


49er Offense

4.88 (31)

0.366 (31)

1:57 (32)

The offense is next to last in plays per drive and "three and outs" but goes one better by managing to be dead last in average time off possession. That last figure is partly down to Kelly’s turbo offense but while his Niner offense still leads the league by running a play every 24.01 seconds that’s down from his last year in Philly where they were snapping the ball every 22.21 seconds.

So it’s clear that while the D has been erratic at times, which isn’t entirely unexpected given they’re running a new, multiple scheme, the offense has been dire and repeatedly putting the defense in a hole.

Damn Lying Statistic of the Week

The objectivity of statistics can help us to see past our inherent bias as we disregard events that don’t fit our preconceived ideas or as we over-emphasize strongly negative events but stats can also turn out to be even more misleading.

And sometimes they’re pure gibberish. (Drum roll……)

Ladies and gentlemen, Blaine Gabbert is currently No. 8 in Total QBR.

Oracle gif me Gabbert pinging a running back in the head: