San Francisco 49ers Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 14?
Heading into Week 14, Jim Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers will look to get back on track after being handed their third loss of the season by the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. For the second time this season, Jeff Fisher's club took the 49ers into overtime.
However, this past week's game didn't end in a tie like their Week 10 matchup.
Defensively, Vic Fangio's unit had his men playing at a high level, considering the 49ers didn't surrender an offensive touchdown. However, a strong game on the defensive side of the ball was negated by head-scratching play calls at critical moments down the stretch on the offensive side of the ball.
Regardless, Week 13 is in the past and the only thing San Francisco can do now is look forward to its matchup at home against the 5-7 Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are currently losers of four of their last five and are 2-4 away from the Sunshine State.
Let's take a look at the good, the bad and everything in between, as we are only three days away from kickoff.
In a game where the defense received minimal help, the folks at Pro Football Focus had the Niners defense graded out at a plus-18.4—one of the highest grades it has amassed all season long. 16 players took snaps on the defensive side of the ball, and of the 16 players, 12 finished with positive grades.
The two most notable performances went to cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Carlos Rogers. Both players excelled in their key area: pass coverage.
When Rams quarterback Sam Bradford challenged Culliver on the outside, he found little success. Seven passes in total were thrown in his direction, yet his tight coverage only allowed four of those seven passes to be completed. The four receptions netted a measly 28 yards for a long of nine yards. Moreover, Culliver's only pass defense came on a key third-down stop against wide receiver Brian Quick.
His third-down pass defense marked his sixth pass defense of the season. Additionally, the strong day in coverage meant his quarterback rating against dropped to a team-low 57.9.
Only seven cornerbacks in the NFL who have played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps can claim a more impressive number.
Even though Rogers doesn't have the same impressive coverage numbers as Culliver, his play has hit a whole new stride over the past three weeks. During the 49ers' three-game stretch against the Bears, Saints and Rams, Rogers managed to provide ridiculous coverage on the back end of the 49ers defense. He didn't allow a single touchdown and the longest reception he squandered was for 13 yards.
Not to mention his quarterback rating against is 71.1—not the most impressive number, yet he has done a great job of limiting yards and yards after the catch.
In three games, opposing wideouts have only gained 41 yards on six receptions against Rogers, with a minuscule nine yards after the catch.
As I mentioned above, the play-calling towards the end of the game was a bit concerning, but from an individual performance standpoint, there was none more concerning than Anthony Davis' output as a pass protector.
Before I start to critique him too much, it's worth noting that he was very impressive at the point of attack in the run game. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick relied upon him when he made his move outside of the pocket, as Davis helped him spring free to the tune of 13.2 yards per carry.
Davis provided a huge block down the right side on No. 7's 50-yard scamper along the sideline. He also provided a couple of great seal blocks on runs that went outside of the tight end along the right side of the formation.
Usually, Davis struggles mightily against left defensive end Chris Long—I highlighted it in my matchup preview from last Friday, but surprisingly enough, it wasn't Long who gave him a fit this time around.
It was reserve defensive end Eugene Sims.
As a situational rusher against Davis, Sims piled up one quarterback sack, one quarterback hit and three quarterback hurries. Even though most of his damage came from the left end spot, Sims' versatility played a huge role, as he was rushing from both defensive end spots throughout the game.
Sims hadn't squared off against Davis for more than a handful on snaps in his career, so one could chalk up the poor performance to a lack of knowledge on Sims or one could just says Sims had the upper hand.
Stock Watch (Week-By-Week Evaluation)
Rising: Alex Boone
After an average performance against the Saints, guard Alex Boone bounced back in a big way. He had a clean game in pass protection, as he didn't allow a sack, a hit or a hurry. He also managed to provide decent running lanes for Frank Gore.
Falling: Mike Iupati
For the second week in a row, Mike Iupati struggled in pass protection. Last week, he allowed three total pressures. This week, four total pressures. In addition, he was penalized again, marking the eighth time this season where he was flagged.
Rising: Aldon Smith
Another week, another sack for No. 99. Aldon Smith is now 5.5 sacks away from breaking the single-season sack record. He also became the fastest player in NFL history to eclipse the 30-sack plateau, a mark which was previously held by Reggie White.
Falling: Dashon Goldson
Dashon Goldson struggled in two major areas on Sunday's game. He was flagged for a silly penalty on Bradford and failed to wrap up two different times. The two missed tackles added to the eight tackles he previously missed, bringing his total to 10 for the season—the 14th-worst mark in the NFL.
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