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John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports


Bright Spot: 49ers offensive line offers strong protection in loss to Panthers

Sep 19, 2016 at 10:59 AM


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Despite the 46-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers offensive line has continued to shine when it comes to pass protection. They gave QB Blaine Gabbert time in the pocket and protected him well. What he did with that time and protection is a difference story as the quarterback completed just five of his sixteen attempts beyond 10 yards, including two interceptions. But the offensive line did exactly what was asked of them in pass protection.

According to advanced statistics site Pro Football Focus, the 49ers offensive line allowed just six pressures throughout the entire game. For the second week in a row, they have performed admirably – a sharp contrast to the unit on display just one year ago.

The top five graded offensive players by Pro Football Focus were all offensive lineman and the site calls the unit the strength of the 49ers' offense.

"A mauling run blocker with athleticism to match, LT Joe Staley is one of the NFL's best O-linemen," said John Breitenback of Pro Football Focus. "He allowed just a solitary hurry in 42 dropbacks. Combined, the starting offensive line allowed just six pressures. In addition, four of the five up front earned run-blocking grades of at least 74.6. An offense severely lacking talent can at least be confident of its production in the trenches."

Top Week 2 Offensive Performances for the 49ers
Player PFF Grade
LT Joe Staley 84.1
C Daniel Kilgore 81.6
RT Trenton Brown 79.5
LG Zane Beadles 77.5
RG Andrew Ziller 77.4

Despite the strong play in the trenches to protect the quarterback, run blocking has been a different story. 49ers RB Carlos Hyde was able to manage just 34 yards on 14 carries. That's 2.4 yards per carry against the Panthers and 3.3 on the season. Compare that to the 5.4 he was averaging at this point in the season last year.

"What I saw was me not performing well," Hyde said following Sunday's loss. "I come off a good week and then I perform that way, just unacceptable. I have to get better. I have to do better. I have to not put the ball on the ground. I'll get better. I have to."

We reached out to Pro Football Focus analyst and 49ers media correspondent Jeff Deeney, who feels that the 49ers offensive line has been inconsistent so far this season. "Aside from left tackle Joe Staley, who currently has our highest grade (86.3) among all NFL tackles, the offensive line has been inconsistent through two weeks," Deeney told us. "Although they have faced two of the better front sevens in football to start the year, the line has had a difficult time opening up holes in the running game. Running backs are averaging only 0.4 yards per carry before contact over the first two games."

Other than Staley (84.5) and Andrew Tiller (79.4), no 49ers offensive lineman has graded higher than 47.8 when it comes to run blocking. Backup tackle Anthony Davis has a grade of 60.4, but that is only though three total snaps, all of which were during run plays.

Following the loss in Charlotte, Staley said that the Panthers caught the 49ers offensive line off guard early with what they were doing. "They had a good plan for us," said Staley. "We'll be ready and we got to go back on Monday and fix everything."

Stats through 2 Games
2015 2016
Sacks allowed 6 2
Rushing yards 211 122
Passing yards 500 413

The 49ers still have a lot to work on as the season progresses. For the team's quarterbacks, defensive pressure can no longer be used as an excuse for poor play.

The 49ers are preparing to face the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday, September 25.
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