- The San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, two teams coming off painful losses, … err …
We interrupt this gaffe to bring you an important update on the increasingly bizarre Lance Easley, the infamous replacement ref whose 15-minutes of Monday Night Football fame is growing into an odd little cottage industry. Not only did the Santa Maria-based Bank of America veep for small business make one of the most controversial, not to mention egregious, calls in NFL history, he had the audacity to defend it against a national avalanche of logical disagreement. After all, not that this is his fault, but the man had no business, nor practical credentials, to be in that capacity on an NFL field. And now this from Deadspin.com (profanity alert): Easley wants to get paid to talk about his colossal failure. And now we return you to the regularly scheduled story.
As failures go, Seattle was awarded a victory over Green Bay because of Easley’s; the 49ers, on the other hand, took the momentum of two impressive victories on the road to Minnesota and were thoroughly dominated by Christian Ponder and the Vikings.
We drag out the trendy Twitter trending pound sign as a point of emphasis for both of these teams. Instead of 2-1, Seattle should be sitting on a losing record with increasing panic as it heads to St. Louis for its Week 4 game. The 49ers, at 2-1, face an interesting challenge in the New York Jets, a yet-undefinable club through three weeks.
In preparation for this mystery, Jim Harbaugh’s Niners skipped the 1,589-mile return trip from the Twin Cities and spent the week in Youngstown, Ohio, practicing in the rain. This prompted the following tweet from rookie LeMichael James:
“I honestly don’t know what time zone my body is registered to.”
Only time will tell if Harbaugh’s time-zone disruption to avoid roughly 4,100 miles of air travel will help the 49ers overcome their shortcomings.
What the NFC West Division rival Seahawks and 49ers share is a big huge #FAIL regarding their respective passing offenses.
As a reminder, the Niners did sign the semi-retired Randy Moss. And Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham. And they did draft speedy A.J. Jenkins. Three wide receiver additons all in the name of giving quarterback Alex Smith that downfield threat he missed during an otherwise stellar 2011 season that saw the Niners take the Giants into overtime in the NFC Championship game.
But that game was an blatant #fail of passing offense.
The additions were supposed to add a deep threat to the offense, open up the running game for Frank Gore and the intermediate passing game for Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. So why is it that through three weeks, Smith has thrown only four passes beyond 20 yards?
“We’re not fully on the same page like we want to be — me and him, or him and the other wideouts,” Manningham said in a San Jose Mercury News story on the topic. “But I feel like we’re getting there.”
The Niners average only 194.3 yards passing per game, have only seven pass plays of 20 yards or longer and a league-low zero of 40 yards or longer. Facing a Jets secondary sans perennial All Pro corner Darrelle Revis, could be the opening Smith and the Niners offense has been looking for.
The Seahawks are even worse in the passing game, averaging a league-low 127.7 yards per game, completing just six of 20 yards and beyond and just one of 40 and beyond. Additionally, the Seahawks rank 31st in first downs passing and 27th in points per game (19.0).
There is a trend taking form among these two NFC West teams, as well as with the undefeated Arizona Cardinals: Manage the game on offense with a conservative passing game and a strong running game, and let the defense own the day.
The Niners and Seahawks attempt to do just that with their quarterbacks, Smith and rookie Russell Wilson, and strong running games with Gore and Marshawn Lynch, respectively. Seattle, at 141.3 yards per game, ranks sixth in the league in rushing. The Niners are right behind at 141.0.
As rush defenses go, the Jets are near the bottom of the league in yards per game average (148.7) and yards per carry (4.6). The Rams aren’t that much better at 120.7 and 4.5, respectively.
What gives in these match-ups is pass defense.
With Revis, the Jets were among the league’s better teams, allowing 218.7 passing yards per game, while St. Louis is middle of the pack at 238.0. Both teams, oddly, are among the league’s worst in sacks.
St. Louis has limited opposing quarterbacks to a 70.9 rating, sixth best.
Factor in that Seattle is 0-1 this season and 3-6 the last two years on the road and that Chris Long-led defense working against Wilson, with the regular officials back on the field, could result in a #fail for Seattle.
But if both teams stay on the ground, manage possession and the clock, and let their considerable defenses wreak havoc on Mark Sanchez of the Jets and Sam Bradford of the Rams, it might not be a #fail after all.
As for perfecting those passing games, unlike our friend Mr. Easley, admit where you #fail and focus on where you succeed.
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