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The Demise of our Pass Defense in the Play-Offs

The first half we sleep-walked thru it. God alone knows why. The jump ball pass on the D's left side was completed all but a very few times. When the ball was thrown, we had it covered, then Anquan or either of the other 2 WRs flat outjumped our CBs and Ss. Yeah, there was very good coverage, but our corners or safeties were out jumped on virtually everyone of those passes. It is why i am hoping for a 6'7" WR in the draft who can jump vertical 4 ft, and can be taught to cover like a wet blanket on a hot fire. I know, there is NO ONE like that, but a guy can hope. So Dashon, good as he was, Carlos, Culliver, et al. DID in fact have pretty good coverage on those jumpball passes. Problem was they rarely knocked one down. The surprise? That flacco was able to so perfectly throw that dam ball right on the out of bounds line and he just let his guys go up and get it.

So when dashon got his bucket of money and left, we lost a great tackler. But tacklers for CBs and Ss in that game didn't do jack for us. They needed a 3rd down? Throw it up on the OOB line. It worked virtually every time. Conversely, we DIDN'T have that jumpball WR (amazing we now got the guy who literally killed us...good on you trent). So if we couldn't beat 'em, we stole one of their players who beat us like a drum. Now with Anquan...and Kap, I think we win that game.

There were so many times fangio had the opportunity to use the 3-4 for its main purpose:... blitz from 5 different positions. I know for sure flacco isn't making those throws if lying on his back. Fangio? Yeah, he blitzed....TWICE. Why run the 3-4 if you aren't going to blitz out of it.? I believe whole heartedly we could have won that game, WR jumpballs and all....but with a lot fewer completed if fangio had blitzed. Bad coaching, coaching error, call it what you want. But between the fangio non calls, the jumpball completions on the OOB line...that caused our loss. Completely preventable, but between HC and DC, this was a coaching loss. Sure, CBs and Ss were culpable, but blitzing sure would have helped them out. Oh, give jH and roman credit for loss too, for not having any idea what the heck to do with 3 downs to go 5 yd,s with some incredible screwed up clock mangement to boot. We should have called T.O.s then not earlier to discuss how to score from the 5 yd line.

Look, our guys are all green coaches. This was a learning experience. They lost because they hadn't had the experience they gained from losing this game, HC, OC, DC. And put ST coaches right up there with them. Coaching loss.....pure and simple. Am I sad? Yup. Am i really P.O.ed at them? yeah. But in the end, I cannot fault them for the loss in that these guys were all green. Can't fault a guy for being green. Next time? We better dam blitz, we better stop those jumpballs on the sideline, and we better put ST out there that actually knows what they are doing. We need Left CB. We need a Left S. We need a blitz. We needed better coaching, but i concede, our guys did the best they could. No excuses next yr.
  • buck
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Originally posted by saj4423:
I have not compared the 2 years but it seemed like teams were able to run better on us in 2012 so they might have been passing less and improving the overall pass D.

In 2011, teams threw against us 579 times; 36.2 pass attempts per game.
In 2012, team threw against us 567 times; 35.4 pass attempts per game.

In 2012, teams rushed against us 407 times; 25.4 attempts per game. They gained an average of 3.5 yards per attempt.
In 2011, teams rushed against us 353 times; 22.1 attempts per game. They gained an average of 3.7 yards per attempt.

There were more rushing attempts against us in 2012, but the difference per game is small; 3.3 rushes less per game.
In 2012, teams threw against fewer times, but again the difference per game is small; less than 1 pass attempt per game less.

Given the vagrancies of down, distance, and field position, I do not think those differences can explain the improvement in our pass defense.

But, as I am not adept at statistics, I could be wrong.
[ Edited by buck on Apr 4, 2013 at 9:27 PM ]
We faced Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. They are all real good qb's
Could be a shot in the dark, but I'd be interested in seeing the Time of Posession stats for the first an second halves of the NFCCG and the SB. I know with the Falcons game we definitely improved on offense and TOP in the 2nd half. The correlating reduction in possessions for the Falcons (and also maybe the Ravens) could have something to do with passing stats being reduced.
  • buck
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Originally posted by 2Legit2Quit:
Could be a shot in the dark, but I'd be interested in seeing the Time of Posession stats for the first an second halves of the NFCCG and the SB. I know with the Falcons game we definitely improved on offense and TOP in the 2nd half. The correlating reduction in possessions for the Falcons (and also maybe the Ravens) could have something to do with passing stats being reduced.

I looked for the time of possession by halfs, but could not find it.

For the game Baltimore had the ball for 32:23 and SF for 27:37.

Any improvement in our offense would reduce the TOP for the Ravens, but any improvements in our defense would also reduce the TOP for the Ravens.
Both seemed to happen in the second half.

Conversely, both our offense and defense in the first half were, if I rember correctly, pretty dismal.
So, we should expect the TOP for Baltimore to have been better in the first half.
Originally posted by buck:
Last year, in the 2012 regular season, our pass defense was the 4th rated pass defense in the league.

In the 2011 regular season our pass defense was the 17th rated pass defense in the league. That is a substantial improvement.

Even though the ranking of our pass defense improved substantially not all was positive; we had 9 fewer interceptions and 4 fewer sacks. The passer rating of opposing quarterbacks went up from 73 to 78. But, despite these shortcomings, our pass defense improved markedly.

We had minor, perhaps insignificant, gains in yards allowed, yards per game, average per reception, and touchdown. The percentage of plays that produced 1st downs went down by 1.4% from 32.8% to 31.4%.

In other aspects of pass defense, the team made significant advances.

In 2011, we gave up 60 big passing plays. In 2012, we gave up 35 big passing plays.
The number of passing plays of 20+ yards that we gave up went from 48 to 38.
The number of passing plays of 40+ yards dropped from 12 to 7.
In total, we gave up 15 fewer big passing plays in 2012; a 41.7% drop.
The number of passing plays that went for 1ST downs decreased from 190 to 178 (-12).

In 2011, we gave up 3.75 big passing plays per game; in 2012, 2.19.

The gains in our passing defense disappeared in our three play-off games.

In three games, we gave up 17 big passing plays; 14 of 20+ yards and 3 of 40+ yards.
In the play-offs, we gave 5.67 big passing plays per game.

The percentage of passing plays that went for first downs increased from 31.4 % to 39.5%.
The passer rating of opposition quarterbacks increased from 78 to 109.5.
Passing yards allowed per game increased from 200.2 per game to 306 per game.
Completion percentage increased from 59.4% to 68.4%.
Yards gained per pass attempt increased from 6.1 to 8.2.

The Atlanta and Baltimore play-off games complicate the task of understanding the discrepancy between our regular season pass defense and our play-off past defense. In the first half of both the Atlanta and the Baltimore game, our pass defense got its clock cleaned, but not in the second half.

In the first half of the Atlanta game, Matt Ryan competed 18 of 24 passes for 271 yards and 3 scores. He completed 75% of his passes and had a passer rating of 151.2. In the second half, he completed 12 of 18 passes for 125 yards and no scores. By the end of the game, his passer rating had dropped to 114.8.

In the Baltimore game, Joe Flacco completed 13 of 20 passes, for 192 yards and 3 scores in the first half. He completed 65% of his passes and had a passer rating of 135.8. In the second half, he completed 9 of 13 passes for only 95 yards and no scores. By the end of the game, his passer rating fell to 124.2.

From the get go, it clearly appears that if our first half pass defense against Atlanta Baltimore had been close to as successful as our second pass half defense against them, we would have won the conference championship and the Super Bowl going away.

I keep asking myself what the'ell happened.

If I were more intelligent, I might be able to answer that question, but I am not.

I cannot come up with any rational answer. Without a doubt there is people out there are both more intelligent than I, and understand the game better than I do.

The only definite conclusion that I have been to reach is that the blame for the demise our pass defense cannot be placed on the debilities of the individuals in our defensive backfield. Goldson, Whitner, Rogers, Brown, and Culliver played in the regular season and the post season. They played in the first half and the second half of both the Atlanta and the Baltimore game. They were a constant and the results changed.

I would appreciate your thoughts.

Smart teams figured out our weakness was Whitner. They attacked whitner's side deep every game. Whitner exposed. The End.
  • buck
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Originally posted by kronik:

Smart teams figured out our weakness was Whitner. They attacked whitner's side deep every game. Whitner exposed. The End.

So, the whole thing falls on Whitner. Goldson did not beat. Culliver never got beat. Rogers did not get got beat. Brown never got beat.

edit: So, when we pulled Whitner in the 2nd half of the Baltimore and Atlanta game, the pass defense got better.
Oh, wait...he never got pulled.

Come on, man.
[ Edited by buck on Apr 4, 2013 at 6:48 PM ]
I think the answer is three-fold:

1) we didn't have a healthy front 7 that was the reason for our pass rush throughout the rest of the season.

2) We faced really good QBs and when they have all day to throw, they will win the battle in most cases. To be honest I'm surprised Rodgers and Ryan didn't beat us worse than they did.

3) The coaching. For as good as our coaches are, I think they must have overlooked something in the film room because every team faced after the New England game punched our team in the mouth in the first half. Even the Cardinals were keeping the game close early in the last week of the season.

I can only hope that these will improve next season. Haralson returns, the Smiths will be healthy again, Dorsey, and Nnamdi should all really help this area of the team.

I just hope the team can get that far again to give them a shot to finish. It's so hard to do so I hope for the best but expect the worst.
Originally posted by buck:
Originally posted by kronik:
Smart teams figured out our weakness was Whitner. They attacked whitner's side deep every game. Whitner exposed. The End.

So, the whole thing falls on Whitner. Goldson did not beat. Culliver never got beat. Rogers did not get got beat. Brown never got beat.

edit: So, when we pulled Whitner in the 2nd half of the Baltimore and Atlanta game, the pass defense got better.
Oh, wait...he never got pulled.

Come on, man.

This. Culliver was beat up in the Super Bowl. Goldson let Jones rip an interception out of his hands in Atlanta. Jones also beat Brown for a few scores.

Our whole secondary was manhandled by big/strong receivers.
A little while ago I was attempting to make a long write up on this very topic but couldn't find the screenshots and gifs I needed on the internet and couldn't figure out how to make them myself with my outdated version of photoshop. But I'll go ahead and give a brief analysis of some of the things I saw.

Not surprisingly the reasons for our struggles were complex and extensive. The short version: A combination of safeties getting overaggressive trying to make a big play and as a result being undisciplined (nerves from playing on the big stage?), lack of focus and instincts, opposing teams exposing schematic weaknesses and the 49ers not being able to adjust, and an overworked front 7.


The long(er) version for those who are interested:

First I'd like to discuss the lack of discipline from our safeties and a lesser extent our corners. This unit had played very fundamentally sound in the regular season so it was troubling to see them become so undisciplined in the playoffs, and it was especially disturbing to see it come from two veteran guys in Whitner and Goldson. Every game it seemed to get worse and they were consistently making mistakes I hadn't seen in the Harbaugh era.

Examples:
Falcons- Julio Jones 46 yard touchdown. WTF was Goldson doing? He took a huge unecessary gamble on the play and let Jones run free for an easy touchdown that put us immediately in a hole. This is a prime example of what I mean by uncharacteristic lack of discipline.
Superbowl- Jacoby Jones 56 yard TD pass. This play still pisses me off more than any other play. First Culliver bites on a fake and then he jumps like a ballerina over the fallen receiver instead of touching him allowing him to get up and waltz into the end zone. Come on man! You gotta be more disciplined.

---

Whitner was also exploited time and time again. Part of it falls on the heads of our coaches.

Green Bay- James Jones TD. Right down the middle seam. Whitner caught napping and late reacting to Jones who runs free right up the seem for an easy TD.

Falcons- Tony Gonzalez 10 yard TD. this one was particularly killer as this one came with less than a minute on the game clock after we had just closed the gap to 3. I don't blame Whitner quite so much for this play as part of it was a good play by Gonzalez, but again he was just a step slow to react, a common theme from Whitner.

Superbowl
Boldin 13 yard TD pass. There's that goddamn seam play again. This time Whitner bit hard on a fake and so Boldin had an easy TD straight up the gut. This one also falls partly on the shoulders of Fangio and Co. This isn't the first time we saw a play like this in the playoffs, yet we showed an inability to adjust to this route.

Pitta one yard TD. This one was too easy. Whitner again was exploited as he was extremely late to react to the play in his zone. He showed little if any awareness that Pitta was standing right nex to him completely uncovered.

---

And some of them were just straight up great plays by the receiver. Although I will say that at the same time that our DBs showed a general lack of awareness and ball skills. Admittedly, many were back-shoulder throws and those are some of the hardest passes to defend in the NFL but ball skills and contesting catches is definitely an area we can improve upon.

Green Bay-James Jones 44 yard catch.

Falcons- Julio Jones 20 yard TD catch. Brown did everything he could have, just a phenominal catch. Julio also had one catch where he literally snatched an interception out of the hands of our defender and kept running.

Boldin as we all know made a couple of ridiculous cataches where you just have to tip your hat to him. Hopefully we can be the beneficiary of his ridiculous catches this year.

---

(There was a point I want to make about our pass-rush but my stupid laptop erased what I had written about it when I was almost done twice in a row. I'll try it again a little later but right now I'm quite irritated).

In summary: Beware of any WR with the name "J. Jones"
[ Edited by AllTimeGreat on Apr 4, 2013 at 6:58 PM ]
Lord fangio failed to adjust til half time. That's what happened in all cases
Originally posted by TheRatMan13:
Originally posted by buck:
Originally posted by kronik:
Smart teams figured out our weakness was Whitner. They attacked whitner's side deep every game. Whitner exposed. The End.

So, the whole thing falls on Whitner. Goldson did not beat. Culliver never got beat. Rogers did not get got beat. Brown never got beat.

edit: So, when we pulled Whitner in the 2nd half of the Baltimore and Atlanta game, the pass defense got better.
Oh, wait...he never got pulled.

Come on, man.

This. Culliver was beat up in the Super Bowl. Goldson let Jones rip an interception out of his hands in Atlanta. Jones also beat Brown for a few scores.

Our whole secondary was manhandled by big/strong receivers.

This is why we need big corners and safeties in the secondary; at least they'll be able to handle the big/strong receivers. Undersized players are good when they can take the ball out of the receiver's hand, but when the tall receivers catches the ball, they get burned for a very big play.
Originally posted by Beeker:
Here's what happened:

Justin Smith was injured.
Aldon Smith was injured.

Depth is needed.

that is all
Everyone's comments are right on. Injuries along the front line played a huge role. Playing against Rodgers and Ryan is tough for any team especially when there is no pass rush. Pete Caroll probably has the right philosophy, big corners, and jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage to stop the offensive flow. Playing like that a team does not need a corner that runs a 4.3 40. Flacco had trust in Boldin to take the ball away from the 49ers secondary and it worked. With the rule changes going against defenses the future of the NFL might be to build offenses to out score the opposing team.
A one healthy arm Justin Smith is the reason. Not enough pressure to the QB. Same with sore shoulder Aldon Smith.