A week ago, I wrote about an extensive look at the 49ers-in-the-red-zone">San Francisco 49ers' success in the Red Zone. Aside from looking at the trend for the past three years, I also broke down how the offense improved with Shaun Hill under center in 2008.
However, I did not want to simply leave it at that. A common complaint from those who doubt Mike Singletary and Shaun Hill has been how the team was facing weak opponents in the second half of the season, failing to beat one playoff team while beating up on weak opponents.
So I decided to break down the opponents faced in the first half of the season compared to the second half. Since Arizona was in both halves, I omitted them, while including Seattle in the first half since there was one and a half games played without Hill and half a game played with Hill.
Since there was such an improvement when Hill took over, most critics of the time would assume that the red zone defenses the 49ers face must have been weaker overall. So I decided to test that theory.
In first breaking down the data, I grouped the two sets of teams and combined their defensive red zone numbers: Seattle, New England, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York (G), and New Orleans in one group, St. Louis, New York (J), Washington, Miami, Buffalo and Dallas in the second group.
The first group had an average ranking of 21st overall (19th in my adjusted rankings) while the second group was 16th overall (14th in my adjusted rankings). This translated into .2195 fewer points allowed per red zone trip (4.9068 to 4.6873).
My initial reaction was surprise: the offense performed far better against a much better average opponent. However, I quickly saw an error in my data.
While I was only counting one Seattle game, and Arizona faced the 49ers with and without Hill, Hill did play St. Louis twice. In order to fairly portray the defense they faced, I needed to double count the 29th ranked team (30th adjusted) in the second group.
After making the adjustment, the second group dropped over one and a half spots in each of the rankings (18th and 16th, respectively) and gave up 4.7724 points per trip instead of 4.6873.
In spite of this error, the original results still held, if slightly weaker than before. The teams faced in the second half of the season still gave up fewer points per trip to the red zone and were ranked three spots higher than the teams from the first half of the season.
All of this serves to bolster the argument that the team improved its efficiency with Shaun Hill under center.
(note: all rankings are rounded to the nearest whole number)