The 49ers lack discipline.
How do I know this? Well, I have eyes, for starters. I'm sure anyone who saw the game this weekend saw several 49ers plays be called back due to penalty. Or, alternatively, they saw several Rams' drives extended due to penalties.
(As an aside, this whole "protect the quarterback" is simply getting ridiculous. If Travis LaBoy "roughed" Sam Bradford then Jay Cutler should file assault charges against every defender the Bears play this season. But I digress...)
The 49ers have a startling number of penalties this season. To date they have 77 penalties for 657 yards. Projected over a 16 game season this amounts to 138 penalties for 1168 yards. The record for most number of penalties in a year is held by the Chiefs, with 158. In fact, at their current rate the 49ers would have 138 penalties by season's end. This would be the highest total for the franchise since the inception of a 16 game season. (Runners up would include the 1999 (133) and 2001 (134) teams.)
For all the vitriol 49ers fans have for Mike Nolan, he fielded relatively average teams in terms of penalties. Nolan averaged 98.5 penalties a season, with his highest total being 106 his first season. Singletary is setting records in his first full season. Problem is it happens to be a record of ineptitude.
Part of the problem is the offensive line. Anthony Davis is currently tied for second in the NFC West with 8 total penalties. Defensively, Ahamad Brooks takes the cake with 7 penalties and is also tied for second place in the NFC West. Alex Smith leads the NFC West with 9 penalties, many of which are delay of game penalties.
So what does this all mean? It just confirms what we already know - the 49ers cannot win consistently if they keep up their current pace of penalty-ridden games. The last 10 Super Bowl winners averaged 94.8 penalties per year with the highest total belonging to the 2003 Patriots (111).
And without discipline, the 49ers will continue to be the Wile E Coyote of the NFL trying to chase those Birds.