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Old 09-24-2013, 05:20 PM  
Eleazar Eleazar is offline
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ESPN on 49ers, & - is the zone read dead?

That sinking feeling for the 49ers
By Gregg Easterbrook | ESPN.com




Psssssttttttttttt. That's the sound of the air leaking out of the 49ers' balloon.

A few months ago, a mere three yards shy of Super Bowl victory, San Francisco was just pounded on its home field by the Indianapolis Colts. Not only did Andrew Luck defeat his former college coach, Jim Harbaugh, but also Harbaugh's former college assistant Pep Hamilton, now offensive coordinator at Indianapolis, composed a game plan that looked an awful lot like the Stanford offense.

"Awful" suddenly applies to the Niners. They've lost their last two outings by a combined 56-10. Since taking the field for the Super Bowl, San Francisco is 1-3. Sunday, the vaunted San Francisco defense was hapless; Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis repeatedly missed tackles. The Colts' defense -- 26th-ranked in 2012 -- dominated the Niners' vaunted offensive line. The San Francisco zone read that was unstoppable during the playoffs has turned unstartable. Star Aldon Smith is in limbo and star Frank Gore is in meltdown.

Colts leading 13-7 in the third quarter, on first down Colin Kaepernick was dropped for a loss trying to run the zone read. A second down rush was stuffed. On third-and-13, veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin made the rookie error of pulling up his pattern short of the first-down marker. Now it's fourth-and-4 on the Indianapolis 45 -- and Harbaugh/West sends in the punt unit! An offense that gained 468 yards in the Super Bowl punts on fourth-and-4 in opposition territory while trailing in the second half at home. Harbaugh/West might as well have left for a craft-brewed ale along the wharf. By the time San Francisco entered Indianapolis territory again, the score was 27-7 and the clock nearly expired.

Then there's the matter of the naked quarterback. Kaepernick has thrown for three touchdowns and four interceptions, with a 72.5 passer rating. At Kansas City, Alex Smith, sent packing to grant Kaepernick the San Francisco job, has four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 92.1 rating. Discounting for the 2012 San Francisco-St. Louis tie in which both played, since the beginning of last season, Smith is 9-2 as a starter, Kaepernick is 8-5. All of Kaepernick's starts are with a team many touts view as having the league's best roster. Three of Smith's starts have come with the worst team of 2012.

In August, this column supposed "Smith is the real deal. At the Niners, Harbaugh/West was so eager to showcase Kaepernick that Smith fell out of favor despite performing well. In Smith's final 2012 appearances with San Francisco, he combined to go 25 for 27 with four touchdown passes and no interceptions. Should Smith play well in Andy Reid's pass-wacky system, this trade will be viewed as the year's steal."

Kaepernick is talented, but his emergence was tied to NFL defenders not knowing how to handle the zone read. Now they do, as Robert Griffin III has found. If the zone read recedes into the collector's case as just a flavor of the month, teams will go back to emphasizing the kind of tried-and-true passing tactics epitomized by Tom Brady, the Manning brothers, Drew Brees -- and Alex Smith. By season's end, will Niners faithful be wishing their team had kept Smith?

Speaking of whom, the Kansas City Chiefs, who had two victories in 2012, already have three in 2013. Perhaps they will go worst-to-first.

Last season the Colts and Vikings jumped from the cellar to the playoffs. In the NFL's format, with just four clubs per division, each member team has a 25 percent chance of finishing first, plus a bonus chance of a wild card. Eight divisions, each with four teams with a one-in-four shot at the title -- if victories were distributed by chance, each season there would be two worst-to-first outcomes. Turns out that in the last decade, there have been an average of 2.5 playoffs teams that were cellar-dwellers the previous year. So Kansas City's chances are good.
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Old 09-24-2013, 05:25 PM   #2
BlackHelicopters BlackHelicopters is offline
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NFL defenses adjust rather quickly.
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Old 09-24-2013, 05:28 PM   #3
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Another factor not being considered is that most these zone read QB's have 2 years or less starting experience and are being compared with QB's who have 8 or more years in...
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Old 09-24-2013, 05:29 PM   #4
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Old 09-24-2013, 05:30 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by theelusiveeightrop View Post
NFL defenses adjust rather quickly.
That's pretty much what it boils down to.
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Old 09-24-2013, 05:31 PM   #6
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Manning sucks. I want to see him try some zone read.
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Matt once made a very nice play in Seattle where he spun away from a pass rusher and hit Bowe off his back foot for a first down.

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Old 09-24-2013, 05:47 PM   #7
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I wouldn't say it's dead. I mean we ran it all the way down the field for the first TD against Dallas. You just can't use it all the time any more. It's got to be a wrinkle.
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Old 09-24-2013, 05:48 PM   #8
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Manning sucks. I want to see him try some zone read.
Oh, no.


For some reason, your post just reminded me of Elway running the ball from the shotgun for easy touchdowns. .......
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Old 09-24-2013, 05:48 PM   #9
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Old 09-24-2013, 05:49 PM   #10
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Any play that makes my most important player more likely to get blasted? Yeah no thanks
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Old 09-24-2013, 05:50 PM   #11
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Old 09-24-2013, 06:27 PM   #12
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calm down, nobody ever hits the MVP
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Old 09-24-2013, 06:31 PM   #13
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calm down, nobody ever hits the MVP
That's right Dustin ****in Colquitt
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Old 09-24-2013, 07:49 PM   #14
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Another factor not being considered is that most these zone read QB's have 2 years or less starting experience and are being compared with QB's who have 8 or more years in...
Except when you factor in that every nfl expert has always stated that a qbs biggest jump is from year one, to year two.

See Andrew Luck, Tannenhill, and Wilson.

Qbs that suck, Rg3, Weeden, and Kaep.

The difference?

Luck, Tannenhill, and Wilson, all played in pro style offenses in college. RG3, and Kaep got by with their legs, and simple one reads, which they both used to perfection last year, while Weeden is a baseball flame out, who came out of a spread system with elite talent, and a weak conference, and got exposed because he has slow eyes.
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Old 09-24-2013, 07:58 PM   #15
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I told some of my buddies that Kaep would regress this season and be nothing more than average. I still stand by that.
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