Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
This is how San Francisco has routinely lost games over the years, which makes the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks, in particular, threats to take them out. Not to mention that these two teams had success against the 49ers earlier in the year, handing them two of their four losses.
The Niners don’t have a lot of weaknesses and are extremely consistent against the league’s finesse teams, but they’ve struggled with teams that hit back. When their opponent can trade punches and hang with them for four quarters, that’s when you’ll see the team deflated.
While it seems unorthodox to attack this team’s strength, it’s important to try to beat them in the trenches.
Regular Season Non-Wins (2012-13):
Minnesota Vikings: (A. Peterson and C. Ponder) 119 yards, 1 TD—146 yards total rushing
New York Giants: (A. Bradshaw) 116 yards, 1 TD—149 yards total rushing
St. Louis Rams: (S. Jackson) 101 yards, 1 TD—159 yards total rushing
St. Louis Rams: 85 yards total rushing
Seattle Seahawks: (M. Lynch) 111 yards, 1 TD—176 yards total rushing
Seattle Seahawks: (M. Lynch) 98 yards, 2 TDs—172 yards total rushing
Indianapolis Colts: (A. Bradshaw) 95 yards, 1 TD—184 yards total rushing
Carolina Panthers: (D. Williams) 5.8 YPC, 1 TD—109 yards total rushing
New Orleans Saints: 23 team carries, 1 TD—92 yards total rushing
Notice a commonality with all of their losses?
This is two year's worth of rushing data and it's consistent, apart from one of the Rams games where running back Steven Jackson was held to 2.3 yards per attempt.
Other than that, when the league’s fiercest run defense has an off day and gets mauled on the ground, the 49ers invariably collapse. Rarely do they get hit like this, but when they do, the results have been steady.
It takes a lot of persistence and elbow grease to get the ball going on the ground but it’s proven to be worth it.
Though, teams have to get past the daunting stats and agree not to be one-dimensional versus San Francisco. It’s imperative to try to run the football, even if the success isn’t there. It's about attempts and balance. They’ve got to stick to it. And that’s tough because they often hold runners to a couple yards per carry, if that, and don’t allow rushing touchdowns.
In fact, the 49ers defense is the only unit that did not allow a 100-yard rusher this season.
They’ve only allowed nine 100-yard games in the past three years, four of which belong to running back Marshawn Lynch. By not allowing a rushing TD in 2011, they set a new standard in the history of the sport, breaking a mark set by the Decatur Staleys in 1920 (13 games).
Stopping the run is a big part of what they do.
When they don’t contain the running back, it’s anybody’s game. Linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are looking at each other, like, “What’s going on here?” The 49ers defense gets tired and grows confused. It’s a tremendous momentum-getter for the other team.
So, running the ball is imperative when it comes to defeating San Francisco, but so is hitting the quarterback.
Regular Season Non-Wins (2013):
Seahawks: Three sacks, five QB hits
Colts: Three sacks, three QB hits
Panthers: Six sacks, seven QB hits
Saints: Three sacks, seven QB hits
Whether a team has the personnel to match them or just to be in the right frame of mind for the game, teams that can bully back and withstand the beating that the 49ers dish out has the chance to survive them.