Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Thursday, August 1, 2013
Unfamiliar feeling without Willis, Bowman

By Mike Sando

The San Francisco 49ers have played 1,631 defensive snaps over the past two regular seasons with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman on the field together, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They have played 30 snaps with both on the sideline.

So, when injuries prevented either from practicing Wednesday, the 49ers were in an unfamiliar position.

Willis re-injured his right hand and was expected to undergo X-rays, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. Willis played with an injured right hand in 2007 and 2010.

Bowman reportedly had a groin injury.

The chart shows opponent's stats on those 30 plays over the past two seasons when both Willis and Bowman were on the sideline. Note the lopsided nature of those games. Willis and/or Bowman will be on he field in nearly all situations if healthy. The 49ers signed both to lucrative long-term contracts because Willis and Bowman are among the best players on the team, and because the team determined both would remain valuable regardless of scheme. That meant letting other players, including free safety Dashon Goldson, hit free agency.

Paraag Marathe, the 49ers' chief operating officer, discussed during the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference the team's thinking in allocating so much at inside linebacker.

Initial indications suggest Bowman's injury is not serious. Willis has shown he can play through hand injuries, but tackling would be more difficult without full use of his right hand.