clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

“Kansas City will expose San Francisco in man-to-man coverage”

If you’ve watched one 49ers game this season you’d never say that out loud.

AFC Championship - Tennessee Titans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

There isn’t much about this game that gets to me, but faulty analysis is one of the few things. This may seem like a giant rant, so bear with me. Super Bowl LIV is around the corner, and with one game, it brings out all of the talking heads. The more analysts talk, the more they tell on themselves. Early Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Dan Orvlosky was talking about the San Francisco 49ers defense against the Kansas City Chiefs. Here was the case Orvlosky was making:

Because he is on TV, people are already regurgitating his point and running with this analysis as gospel. Also, this is an emerging NFL coaching candidate. When you dig a little bit, let’s just say this is how Vegas profits off the general public every Sunday.

“Pats had a really good defense.” Because the Patriots were in the Super Bowl does not mean they had a good defense. New England was 31st in DVOA that season on defense. That unit gave up the second-most explosive passing plays and the sixth-most explosive running plays. League average success rate for defenses is around 46-47%. The Pats defense allowed 49% of runs to be successful, and 51% of passes to be successful. Before we get past the first line, you can flush his argument down the toilet.

RPO’s were made to put your defense in a conflict. They were not invented to make zone defense unplayable. Orvlosky assuming that San Francisco is still running traditional zone coverage on defense shows you how much he’s paid attention this season. Over and over, we’ve written how Joe Woods has brought over a “zone-matching” scheme where San Francisco is no longer outnumbered in coverage anymore. Does Orvlosky think teams haven’t tried RPO’s against San Francisco? The Packers did in two games, and it worked out great for them!

As for Orvlosky’s second point about the quarterbacks that had success, RPO’s were not the reason Kyler Murray moved the ball. “Duo,” or inside zone, was a big part of the Cardinal’s success. The same can be said about the Saints. Expect Kansas City to motion, and essentially get the 49ers defense out of the A-gap, then run it up the middle. I’ll have more on that in the game preview. Screens have been an issue for this defense all season as well. The only other concept that has given the 49ers defense problems is creativity by the offense. Basic passing concepts that come out of different formations are how teams have moved the ball this season. That’s it. Drew Brees didn’t move the ball and score over 40 points against the Niners because he was running freaking RPO’s, man. Russell Wilson was Russell Wilson, but only for a half. You guys watched the games. He didn’t have the type anywhere near the success against the 49ers that he had against every other team. It hellps that San Francisco had eight injuries in the first two matchups that are referenced. What are we doing here?

The final point is why I began to write this. Objectively, the 49ers have the fastest defense in the NFL. Objectively, the defense has performed better when they have more athletes on the field. If Kansas City is going to spread out San Francisco, that plays right into this team’s strengths. Dre Greenlaw comes off the field, and Tarvarius Moore subs in. Now you have Jaquiski Tartt deep, and Jimmie Ward walks down to the slot and covers whoever that may be. Remember the preseason when Ward put the clamps on Tyreek Hill? Or earlier this season when the Niners needed a stop and Ward erased Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp on back-to-back plays? Ward had the second-highest success rate all season for players with 25 or more targets. I can’t imagine watching this defense and coming away thinking, “they struggle in man-to-man situations. Yes, the Chiefs are fast. Yes, they are talented. Yes, they are deep. You know who else is? Their opponent.