San Francisco 49ers: Worst Games of 2011 by Category
The San Francisco 49ers were one of the more dominant football teams in 2011, but during their 13-3 season, there were some hard-fought battles where the Niners were outright embarrassed in some aspects.
Even though it's nice to bask in the 14 total victories of 2011, it's just as important to look at the losses and near-misses.
For San Francisco to take any sort of leap forward, it will certainly be scrutinizing its downfalls last year. There were some notable games where the 49ers did not compete up to par. In the following slides, we'll review the 49ers worst performances of 2011 by their respective category.
For obvious reasons, many of their blatant fallacies reside in the loss column, so please bear with the predictability of this article. However, if your memory isn't what it once was, this should serve as a nice refresher.
Against the Run: Week 16 at Seahawks
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Marshawn Lynch was the only player to rush for over 100 yards against the 49ers and the first all season to score a rushing touchdown against them in Week 16.
For as good a tackling team as the 49ers are, Lynch refused to go down on the initial contact. On the day, "beast mode" generated 107 yards on 21 carries for an average of 5.1 yards per attempt—this was the best day by far of any running back that faced the 49ers defense.
In Week 1 at San Francisco, Lynch accumulated only 33 yards on 13 carries for a dreadful average of 2.1 yards per attempt. Lynch caught fire in Week 9, and in his final nine games, Lynch broke 100 yards on the ground six times. His will as a runner is what makes him great, but I wouldn't expect this to be a regular occurrence against the 49ers.
It is also important to note that Patrick Willis was still out this game, resting his hamstring, with Larry Grant starting in his place. The 49ers, with Willis, are still continuing their streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher.
In Protection: Week 12 at Ravens
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Nine sacks allowed. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. To watch it happen was even more astounding. That is an awful lot of times to get to one's quarterback in a single outing.
The worst game in protection in 2011 was coincidentally the worst game in passing production. 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was 15/24 for 140 yards, zero touchdowns and 1 interception.
It is important to note that Chilo Rachal started the majority of this game at right guard; Moran Norris also was playing in place of fullback Bruce Miller. The Ravens front seven smelled blood in the water, and the feeding frenzy didn't stop until the end of the game.
Smith was consistently under pressure all night and took a beating from the Ravens front. Baltimore attacked with stunts on the right side—taking advantage of Rachal—and Smith paid the price. The minimal success they did have offensively were off of quick-timing throws when Smith got the ball out before the rush.
Hopefully, there will not be a game as bad as this one for some time.
Momentum: Week 14 at Cardinals
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The same thing that hurt the 49ers in Week 2 against Dallas hurt them in Week 14 at Arizona. San Francisco saw significant time against the quarterback that it did not prepare for. In the first quarter, Kevin Kolb had to leave the game and was replaced by backup John Skelton.
The momentum of this game did not seem right from the beginning, and the Cardinals were never out of this game. San Francisco's red-zone struggles continued, as it couldn't muster more than three points at a time in goal situations. It is also deflating when the team's starting quarterback posts 18 completions out of 37 attempts, less than 200 yards and zero scores.
And when Larry Fitzgerald looks as unstoppable as he did, with a backup quarterback no less, it's discouraging. The 49ers, while putting up a fight, never had complete control of this game. This could continue to happen against division rivals, at least once or twice a season. As we examined, things were also shaky against the Seahawks in Week 16, and even the Rams in Week 17.
Even with a three-plus turnover ratio that day against the Cardinals, converting on third down and in the red zone hampered San Francisco too heavily.
Against the Pass: Week 2 vs. Cowboys
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One could argue that the 49ers secondary was lit up by Michael Vick and the Eagles, but nothing too backbreaking where San Francisco couldn't recover. Against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2, the visitors hit the 49ers with big plays at the right time, and they came early and often.
Between Tony Romo and Jon Kitna, the quarterbacks combined for 43 attempts that went for 432 yards and three touchdowns. Dallas had two pass-catchers that broke 100 yards receiving on the day between Jason Witten and Miles Austin.
Austin led the Cowboys with nine catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Witten himself collected seven catches for 102 yards, proving to be that consistent pass option for Dallas. However good the 49ers linebackers and safeties are, Witten was too much to handle in only their second week together.
The 49ers even lost of the game on a 77-yard strike from Tony Romo to Jesse Holley, which put the Cowboys in range to kick the game-winner in overtime.
Granted, this was an early game in the season, and the 49ers were still switching personnel and establishing their identity. After this loss, San Francisco went on an eight-game win streak that lasted until Thanksgiving night.
Rushing: Week 10 vs. Giants
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Gore left the game before the half with six carries for zero yards before Kendall Hunter took over. Reports were that Gore had injured his knee, but the 49ers' all-time leading rusher insisted that he could've played. However, statistical results like these would suggest Gore might have been battling an injury.
Looking at the film, the Giants front was all over Gore—there were no lanes available—but San Francisco found some success passing. The front seven was playing downhill on the ball carrier and got hands on him behind the line of scrimmage.
Hunter came in and carried the ball six times for 40 yards, with a long of 17 and a touchdown. He was hitting the edges a little better than Gore and got lucky with some interior seams. He averaged almost seven yards per carry against New York when Gore struggled with the same amount of touches.
Although, Hunter's touchdown came late in the game as the last score by the 49ers. The defense had been wearing down with a pass-heavy attack by San Francisco. But Hunter accounted for the only positive rushing yards on the day, and there weren't many.
San Francisco also had rough days on the ground early in the season against Seattle in Week 1, Dallas in Week 2, Cincinnati in Week 3 and at Baltimore in Week 12.