Is improved QB play the key to success in 2011?

How do the Redskins "do a 49ers" and turn this around in a year?

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If the 49ers can do it, then why can’t we? Redskins fans like to think we’re just a couple of players, or a couple of lucky breaks per game away from being a winning football team, and the 49ers have shown us that it can be done.

Do we need to change coach, change from being led by a veteran, Super Bowl winning coach to an unproven, ex-NFL QB in their first HC job? Maybe, but we tried that and it didn’t work. Maybe we need to sign a veteran Hall-Of-Fame-to-be QB to lead us back to the playoffs. Maybe we need to improve our team through the draft to take us over the hump.

In 2010, theSan Francisco49ers struggled to a 6-10 record behind an average QB, yet posted an impressive 13-3 record this year, defeating the high scoring New Orleans Saints on their way to the NFC Championship game. I looked at some key categories where the 49ers dramatically improved on from 2010 to 2011 to try to find out what their secret was.

Category 49ers 2010 49ers 2011 Redskins 2011
Team Offense 5013 (24) 4974 (26) 5387 (16)
Pass Offense 3356 (18) 2930 (29) 3773 (14)
Run Offense 1657 (19) 2044 (8) 1614 (25)
Turnovers lost 23 (11) 10 (1) 35 (30)
Sacks against 44 (27) 44 (26) 41 (21)
QB Rating 79.4 (21) 91.4 (8) 73.3 (27)
Team Defense 5244 (13) 4930 (4) 5437 (13)
Pass Defense 3697 (24) 3694 (16) 3553 (12)
Run Defense 1547 (6) 1236 (2) 1884 (21)
Turnovers gained 22 (8) 38 (1) 21 (23)
Sacks gained 36 (19) 42 (7) 41 (10)
QB Rating against 90.0 (26) 73.6 (5) 87.4 (24)
Turnover differential -1 +28 -14

Looking at the table, it can be seen that the 49ers offence actually regressed in terms of total yardage from their 6-10 season in 2010 to their 13-3 season this year, although rushing improved from 19th to 8th. QB play also improved going from a below average 79.4 to a topten score of 91.4 in 2011, good but not yet elite.

The biggest change on the offensive side of the ball is in turnovers lost, which fell from 23 last year (11th), to just 10, good enough for top spot. The lack of turnovers affects both and the fact that the Niners gave up just five picks (from 15 in 2010) all year will certainly have a bearing on the rankings.

Defensively San Fran improved considerably across the board on defense. You must be able to stop the run to be successful in the NFL and they certainly did that, ranking #2 against the run, conceding just three rushing touchdowns all year. Opponents QB rating dropped also, from 90.0 last year to 73.6 this year, the opposite of the 49ers QB play.

But the most telling statistic has to be turnovers gained. Although 2010 was a good year for the west coast team, ranking eighth in the NFL last year, they stole the ball 38 times this year, ranking #1, and turnover differential was a massive +28. So the 49ers finished ranked number one in turnovers lost, and number one in turnovers gained.

So my advice to Coach Shanahan would be a) stop the run, and b), probably most importantly, hold on to the ball, and get some playmakers on your defence to take the ball away. Do this and the wins will take care of themselves.

Obviously adding a number of pro bowl players such as #22 Carlos Rogers also helps …

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