Should we be concerned with the San Francisco 49ers lack of second half production and their 1-2 record?
I’m not sure.
I think the 49ers should be more concerned with playing a clean game, as in, committing fewer, dumb, penalties. They have committed a total of 36 (accepted) penalties in 3 games this season and that’s tops in the NFL.
I know, right, not the Oakland Raiders? (Raider Nation I joke!)
While it may average out to 12 penalties-per-game, the truth is, almost 45% of those penalties (16) came against the Chicago Bears in week 2. So sometimes stats are misleading.
What is not so apparent is that the 49ers committed their fewest penalties in a game this year, ten, against the Arizona Cardinals last week, but they came at the worst times, and it felt like twenty penalties. The 10 penalties accounted for 107 yards. 5 penalties of the 15-yard nature.
Not to mention, three of those penalties cost Johnathan Martin, Eric Reid and Anquan Boldin each $8,268 in fines from the NFL.
Dan Skuta’s ‘unnecessary roughness’ call on a late Drew Stanton hit did not draw a fine, and neither did Patrick Willis’ hit on Stanton. Both penalties came in the 3rd quarter and were committed on back-to-back plays.
The two penalties moved the ball 30 yards from the Cardinals 45-yard line to the 49ers 25-yard line and that, to me, changed the momentum in the game. It had the makings of another tough loss as the 49ers were only helping the Cardinals. The drive eventually led to a touchdown to Cardinals rookie WR John Brown, his second of the day. The 49ers were down 20-14.
Equally frustrating is watching the 49ers offense this season go from scoring 28, 17 and 14 respectively in the first half of the first 3 games, to scoring next to nothing (total of 3-points) in the second half of games. The pattern is alarming. In fact, following the loss to the Cardinals, Kap was asked “what is different between your 1-2 start last year and this years start?” Kapernick responded, “we should have 2 wins. Last year, when we had 2 losses, we didn’t play well at all. These games were close games that we should have won.” Very true. Versus the Bears it was Kaepernick’s four-turnovers that hurt the 49ers and this week was undisciplined penalties in costly situations that did them in.
Sadly, both games were very winnable even late in the 4th quarter.
Two offensive penalties vs the Cardinals cost the 49ers 30-yards and Anquan Boldin’s head-butt of Cardinals Safety Tony Jefferson probably hurt the most. After picking up a first down at the Cardinals 6-yard line, Boldin was flagged for “unnecessary roughness”. It came on the 49ers best scoring opportunity of the the second half, when the offense was rolling. The penalty cost the 49ers 15-yards, and made it 1st and GOAL from the 21-yard line. On the same drive, 3rd down, Jonathan Martin was flagged for “clipping”. Another 15-yard penalty pushing the 49ers to the Cardinals 34-yard line. The drive eventually ended in a blocked Phil Dawson 46 yard field-goal attempt.
With the Arizona Cardinals 3-0 atop the NFC West and the Seattle Seahawks at 2-1, things won’t get any easier for the 3rd place 49ers. Should we worry about the 1-2 start? Probably not. After all, last year the 49ers started 1-2 and came one play short of the Super Bowl. But 1-3 is not a good look in the increasingly tough NFC West. The 49ers will face another undefeated team in the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend. This Eagles team has had no problem putting up points, and plenty in the second half.
The real question is, will the 49ers be able to keep pace with the NFL’s 2nd best passing offense, the Eagles? The good thing the 49ers have going for them is that the Eagles defense isn’t necessarily the stingiest in the league. As a team the Eagles have combined for 3 sacks in 3 games. Justin Smith for the 49ers already has 3 for himself. The Eagles have allowed 17,27 and 34 points to their three opponents this year. The Eagles also rank 30th in the NFL at defending the pass. These are all good signs for the 49ers offense that desperately needs to find a second half rhythm.
I expect a shootout in the high 20’s or low 30’s. It will be up to the 49ers defense to get a critical stop late in the game and hopefully the game doesn’t rest on a Phil Dawson field goal because those aren’t as reliable as they used to be.