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49ers pace remains among league’s highest, but struggles are there

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The 49ers were busy while trailing, but some interesting TOP numbers from their close first half performance.

The San Francisco 49ers seemed a step slow at times during their Week 2 loss to the Carolina Panthers, and it was brought up to offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins on Tuesday. Specifically, he was asked if the heat was an issue that led to what appeared to be a slower pace:

“No, I wouldn’t say it’s heat. You know, the thing about how we operate is, whatever the pace is, we control it. So, if we decide to go really fast, it’s on us. If we decide to slow it down, it’s on us. So, the tempo in this offense, whatever it is, we control it. Now, there’s factors from week to week that we have to decide on. Whether we’re going to really, really go fast or slow it down and those are week-to-week decisions based on our personnel, based on who we’re playing. It has nothing to do with the heat, nothing to do with our defense.”

By all indications, the heat and humidity was serious on Sunday. The sideline reporter said that some 49ers players had taken IVs before the game to make sure they were sufficiently hydrated. The players said Chip Kelly and the coaching staff had drilled it into their heads.

Football Outsiders keeps track of pace stats, breaking down seconds per play in a variety of situations. They included total seconds per play, and then that number for first half, second half, leading and trailing by 7+ points and then by 6 or fewer points, and in situation neutral.

I cannot find specific Week 1 numbers for this, but one particularly useful number is the seconds per play when trailing by 7+ points. The 49ers never trailed the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1, but trailed by 7+ points for the entire second half after a Graham Gano field goal put Carolina up 17-10 with 1 second left in the first half.

FO has their trailing by 7+ seconds per play at 17.43 seconds, which is No. 1 in the NFL by a sizable margin. The Cincinnati Bengals are second in this category, with a time of 20.20, and the Chicago Bears are third at 20.44.

Chip Kelly’s offensive tempo has been a frequent topic of discussion. The team ranks No. 23 in time of possession, which is to be expected. Of course, it is also interesting to note that in the first half, the 49ers led TOP 15:32-14:28. Things flipped drastically in the second half with the Panthers leading second half TOP 21:26-8:34. The Panthers had some grinding drives that slowed things down, and with the 49ers turnovers and three-and-outs, that second half is not remotely surprising.