When the 49ers Have the Ball

Deep Pass Offense

While the 49ers are a more run-centric offense, particularly in the first half of games, they love to attack deep down the field in the passing game when they do pass the ball.

When they pass the ball on early downs in the first three quarters of games, they average 8.0 air yards per attempt.

That’s #4 highest in the NFL.

They throw 15+ air yards downfield at the #3 highest rate in the NFL.

16% of their attempts gain 20+ yards, the #1 highest rate in the NFL.

And that could be a problem for the Packers.

Not only are the 49ers throwing deep on these early downs, but they are also great when doing so:

  • #5 in EPA/att (+0.81)
  • #4 in success rate (59%)
  • #3 in YPA (16.3)
  • #4 in completion rate (59%)

But the Packers struggle to defend these deeper passes.

On the season, vs. early down passes thrown 15+ yards downfield, the Packers rank:

  • #21 in EPA/att (+0.52)
  • #29 in success rate (56%)
  • #16 in YPA (12.8)
  • #28 in completion rate (56%)

Bear in mind, the Packers have played the #26 toughest schedule of passing attacks this season, so to deliver such a bad performance against such bad opponents is concerning, particularly when they are about to face the 49ers.

These numbers have not improved over the back half of the season, either.

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Since Week 10, despite playing some terrible passing attacks, particularly those that are not good attacking deep, including:

  • Steelers with Kenny Pickett
  • Chargers with banged up Justin Herbert
  • Giants with Tommy DeVito
  • Panthers with  Bryce Young
  • Vikings with Jaren Hall

The Packers ranked #24 in EPA/att, #30 in success rate, #22 in YPA, and #30 in comp rate.

Last week, the Cowboys produced the following results:

  • +1.41 EPA/att
  • 67% success
  • 21.3 yards per attempt

But for whatever reason, the Cowboys ran a ton on early downs and threw very short (Dak Prescott averaged just 5.7 air yards per attempt), so there were just THREE total passes thrown 15+ yards downfield on these early downs in the first three quarters.

I would not be shocked if Purdy had five such throws in the first half.

Short pass offense

While the 49ers throw deep on early downs at a high rate, they still primarily are throwing short on these early downs (67% of all passes are thrown fewer than 10 air yards).

Not only are they elite on these passes compared to the rest of the NFL, but the Packers are terrible defending them:

  • SF ranks #1 in EPA/att, #1 in success rate, #1 in YPA, and #3 in completion rate on early down passes thrown less than 10 air yards.
  • The Packers defense ranks #25 in EPA/att, #29 in success rate, #24 in YPA, and #17 in completion rate.

So while bigger chunk gains will be available, I still believe the shorter passes will deliver a high efficiency as well.

Against the Blitz

When Brock Purdy is blitzed, he’s the best QB in the NFL.

  • Blitzed: +0.35 EPA/att (#1), 54% success (#1), 10.0 YPA (#1), 68% comp (#4), 14:2 TD:INT (#1)
  • Not Blitzed: +0.23 EPA/att (#1), 53% success (#1), 9.5 YPA (#1), 70% comp (#4), 17:9 TD:INT
  • Pressure: -0.18 EPA/att (#4), 37% success (#3), 8.2 (#3), 56% comp (#2)
  • Blitzed + Pressure: -0.20 EPA/att (#7), 28% success (#15), 7.6 YPA (#6), 50% comp (#9)

The Packers just played a lot of QBs that were terrible when blitzed recently.

Justin Fields was #4 worst against the blitz, Bryce Young was #3 worst against the blitz, a rookie backup from the Vikings with too small a sample size, and Tommy DeVito as well.

On the season, the Packers had the NFL’s #6 highest blitz rate, sending extra pass rushers on 32% of QB dropbacks. On early downs, that was an even higher rate at 37% (#4).

However, last week vs the Cowboys, they blitzed only 23% of dropbacks in the first half when the game was in reach.

The Packers defense has been one of the worst at actually getting pressure when they do blitz.

Naturally, when blitzing the goal is to generate pressure.

However, on the season, 65% of their blitzes do not result in pressure, which ranks #2 highest in the NFL.

They have been solid at generating natural pressure when not blitzing.

When they don’t blitz, they get pressure on 35% of dropbacks, which ranks #6 most.

And since we know Purdy is elite against the blitz, and the Packers don’t get pressure often when they blitz, the best choice for the Packers would be to play coverage and scheme up natural pressure without blitzing.

Red Zone

Over the second half of the season, no team has been more efficient inside the red zone than the San Francisco 49ers.


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