3TFO: Dolphins @ 49ers, Week 14
Can the Dolphins follow the Rams' lead and take the 49ers the distance in San Francisco? Gordon McGuinness takes a look.
3TFO: Dolphins @ 49ers, Week 14
Though they aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, the Miami Dolphins can view the season in a positive light as it allowed them a good look at rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has shown enough to give fans hope for the future.
The San Francisco 49ers will be disappointed to have come away with just a tie from their two games against the St. Louis Rams and are now in as much of a fight for the division title as they are for a first-round bye in the playoffs.
With the Dolphins looking to build toward next season, and the 49ers trying to keep pace with the rest of the leaders in the NFC there are plenty of key matchups in this one. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at three battles which could help decide the outcome.
Cameron Wake vs. Anthony Davis
Let’s not dance around the subject, the vast majority of the Dolphins pressure comes from defensive end Cameron Wake. With 14 sacks, 19 hits and 37 hurries, Wake accounts for 70 of the team’s 225 total pressures so far this season. Coming on 422 snaps as a pass rusher, that gives Wake a Pass Rushing Productivity (PRP) Rating of 13.3, with all but one hurry coming from the left side. He hasn’t been as impressive against the run, with a Run Stop Percentage of just 6.0% with 13 tackles resulting in defensive stops coming from 216 snaps against the run, but his dominance as a pass rusher ensures he is the focus of opposing offensive lines — as he was last week against the Patriots.
Tasked with trying to slow Wake down this week is 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis, who has had his struggles in pass protection this season. In fact, just 15 offensive tackles have a lower Pass Blocking Efficiency rating than Davis’ 93.2, and he has allowed six sacks, two hits and 25 hurries from 387 snaps as a pass blocker in 2012. He has looked better as the season has gone on and is coming off his best game of the season, particularly as a run blocker where he dominated in St. Louis, but Davis will have his hands full keeping Wake away from quarterback Colin Kaepernick in this one.
Dolphins Wide Receivers vs. 49ers Cornerbacks
With their quarterback of the future in the lineup, the next step will be for the Dolphins to find him a No. 1 receiver. While Brian Hartline has been impressive, averaging 2.28 Yards Per Route Run, tied for 10th among wide receivers, his numbers are buoyed by that huge 253-yard performance against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4. Davone Bess has been solid too, averaging 1.83 Yards Per Route Run, but with just one game since Week 6 where he has recorded a reception of 20 yards or more, and a total of eight drops, he doesn’t strike fear into opposing defenses.
As with the rest of their defense, the 49ers’ cornerbacks have performed well this season. Tarell Brown has allowed a reception just once every 11.6 snaps in coverage, compared to fellow starter on the opposite side Carlos Rogers, who allows a reception once every 8.5 snaps. Rogers, however, is allowing less yardage, averaging 0.95 Yards Per Coverage Snap compared with the 1.23 allowed by Brown. When the team move into the nickel, Rogers moves into the slot where he has impressed even more, allowing just 0.90 Yards Per Coverage Snap. On those occasions Chris Culliver takes his spot on the outside, he is giving up a reception just once every 14.8 coverage snaps and allowing a mere 0.72 Yards Per Coverage Snap.
The Best Quartet in the NFL
Many teams around the league like to boast that they have the best group of players in any given positional unit. Nobody but the 49ers should be claiming to have the best group of linebackers, however, with San Francisco the current flag bearers for how a set of 3-4 linebackers should play. With Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman at inside linebacker, and Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks on the outside, the quartet have combined to record 157 defensive stops to go along with 27 sacks, 21 hits and 62 hurries as pass rushers. With Run Stop Percentages of 9.3% and 13.1% respectively, Willis and Bowman both rank in the top 16 players at their position. That’s matched by the pass rushing ability of Smith and Brooks on the outside who, with PRP Ratings of 12.0 and 9.7, rank in the top seven outside linebackers. There isn’t really a weakness to this group as they continue to be a major part of the success of the San Francisco defense.
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Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.