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Why the 49ers are awful at the beginning of games...


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Danny Tuccitto writes:

So you may have noticed that San Francisco's offense was practically the walking dead to start their playoff games this year. If not, here's a reminder of what they did on their opening drives. Against Green Bay, Colin Kaepernick threw a pick-six (pictured above). Against Atlanta, they gained only one yard in the midst of a three-and-out. And against Baltimore, another three-and-out featured an inexplicable illegal formation on the first play of the game. All told, the 49ers offense scored zero points, amassing only 23 yards on 10 plays. And thanks to an almost equally zombified defense, they found themselves down by a combined score of 31-10 at the end of the first quarter. Good thing the NFL rule book allowed for (at least) three more.

...

So you want the elevator pitch for why the offense seemed to suck on their first drives? Here it is: They had moderate-to-large gains on first downs, but stalled on second downs and third downs, and that made it extremely difficult to turn those drives into points. But here's the good news: I'm skeptical about how predictive any of this is for 2013 -- for a few reasons. First, we know that larger sample sizes are better for evaluating teams than smaller sample sizes, and 16 opening drives or 79 offensive plays during those drives -- tied with Chicago for the fewest in the league I might add -- are really small sample sizes. Over the course of 959 total plays during the regular season, San Francisco had the fifth-most efficient offense in the NFL. I'll put my money on that being the more reliable predictor.

The more experienced Kaepernick gets, the faster the 49ers offense will start.

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