But there is one storyline that hasn’t received as much attention and is worth examining: the 49ers defensive struggles in the first half over the past 3 games.
I posted this stat earlier in the week, showing the stark contrast in first half points allowed by the 49ers defense over the past 3 games:
The #49ers defense avg pts by opponent in the first half:— Jeff Medina (@JeffMedina49) December 23, 2019
First 12 games: 6.9
Last 3 games: 19.3
This obviously hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed by the 49ers fan base, but the question still remains: why?
The easy answer and most likely given by fans and media would be simple: injuries. And that is certainly a factor. But the 49ers were missing key players in the first 12 games as well and weren’t surrending 20 points to opponents in the first half. Dee Ford missed time, Ahkello Witherspoon missed time, Jimmie Ward, Kwon Alexander has been out since week 8, Ronald Blair, Richard Sherman missed a game and has dealt with injuries.
So while it’s absolutely a contributing factor, is it the only reason?
Strength of schedule could be argued as well.
The past 3 games the 49ers have faced the Saints, the Falcons, and the Rams - all three of whom can put points on the board in a hurry when they’re firing on all cylinders. But the 49ers faced Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Jared Goff, Jameis Winston, and Aaron Rodgers in the first 12 and gave up a total of 38 first half points in those five games combined.
To put that in perspective they gave up 27 in the first half to the Saints alone. And 21 to a Rams team that they held to 7 total points earlier in the season.
So what do you guys think is the issue?
Injuries? Strength of schedule? Maybe poor game planning on Robert Saleh’s part, or better game planning by opposing offensive coordinators? Has the defense become too predictable?
As with any statistic in football there might not be a definitive answer. Sometimes there are bumps in the road or regression to the mean and the issue eventually resolves itself.
But the question remains: can the 49ers stop the first half bleeding against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks this weekend?
Hopefully the answer is yes. Becuase if it’s not, then 49ers fans are in for another offensive shootout, and Jimmy G and company will have to try to bail out the defense for the fourth straight week in order to win the NFC West and secure the all important first round bye.
And now, onto those links:
Art of the win: 49ers, Seahawks have taken divergent paths toward NFC West showdown (Nick Wagoner and Brady Henderson, ESPN)
49ers vs. Seahawks: Week 17 betting odds and lines, injuries and playoff implications (Peter Panacy, Niner Noise)
49ers to place DL Jullian Taylor on IR, activate DL Kevin Givens (Kyle Madson, Niners Wire)
49ers-Seahawks Injury Report: Jaquiski Tartt listed as ‘doubtful’ with an ‘outside chance’ to play (David Bonilla, 49ers WebZone)
49ers vs. Seahawks: 3 X-factors San Francisco must overcome in Week 17 (Peter Panacy, Niner Noise)
Jimmy Garoppolo nearing rare passing milestones for 49ers QBs (Kyle Madson, Niners Wire)
49ers preparing for Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch at his best, says John Lynch (David Bonilla, 49ers WebZone)
Five Key Matchups: 49ers vs. Seahawks for the NFC West Title (Matthew Asher, 49ers.com)
49ers’ Daniel Brunskill has gone from irrelevant to indispensable (Eric Branch, SF Gate)
49ers’ C.J. Beathard tributes brother Clayton on Instagram after death (Marcus White, NBC Sports)
Around the NFL...
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown works out for Saints (Grant Gordon, NFL.com)
Raiders RB Josh Jacobs (shoulder) doubtful for final week at Broncos (Paul Gutierrez, ESPN)
Falcons to bring back Dan Quinn, Thomas Dimitroff for 2020 season despite 2019 disappointment (Patrik Walker, CBS Sports)
Roundup: Eagles rule out Zach Ertz (ribs) for Sunday (Nick Shook, NFL.com)
No James Conner for Steelers in must-win Ravens game (Brooke Pryor, ESPN)