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Thursday, January 28, 2010
Not to be negative, but ...

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Facebook friend Alex writes: "As a 49ers fan I have a question for either Jimmy Raye or Mike Singletary. Why do they favor throwing the ball 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage? OVER & OVER & OVER! It get's them nowhere! Why not look at the 80s and 90s and see the the slant pass works so much better. Or at least throw it close to the line of scrimmage! 49er fans are tired of that play!"

Mike Sando: Seems to me those 49ers teams of yesteryear had better players, particularly at quarterback. But this question does seem worth indulging after Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information independently passed along numbers showing how many negative plays each NFL team suffered.

The 49ers lost yardage on 14 percent of plays (not counting incomplete passes). Only the Chiefs lost yardage a higher percentage of the time (14.2) last season. The NFL average was 11.6 percent. Five teams were below 10 percent: Patriots (8.6), Dolphins (8.9), Saints (9.2), Falcons (9.4) and Colts (9.6).

The Seahawks (12.8) and Rams (12.4) were worse than the league average. The Cardinals (11.6) were average.

Also according to ESPN Stats & Information, Alex Smith's passes traveled 7.2 yards in the air on average, well off the NFL average of 8.4 air yards. Only Trent Edwards (7.1), Matt Hasselbeck (6.9), Keith Null (6.8), Jason Campbell (6.7) and Kyle Boller (6.3) had lower averages among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts. Shaun Hill averaged 8.3 air yards per pass attempt.

The numbers don't say anything definitively -- Matt Schaub was at 7.7 air yards and he enjoyed a Pro Bowl season -- but they support your general thought about the 49ers suffering too many negative plays.