Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Read-option threat powers 49ers, Seahawks
By John McTigue, ESPN Stats & Info
USA TODAY SportsThe 49ers and Seahawks are ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, in this week's ESPN.com Power Rankings. They entered the 2013 season ready to run, and although both Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson displayed an ability to throw last season, each team made waves with their rushing attack, specifically with the read option.
The threat of running opened the passing game for Wilson (left) and Kaepernick (right) in Week 1.
The 49ers averaged 161.3 rush yards per game with Kaepernick as the starter last season (including playoffs), while the Seahawks averaged 200.8 rush yards per game after introducing the read option in Week 13.
Both the Seahawks and 49ers used the read option with great success in 2012. Each team averaged at least 7.0 yards per rush on zone-read options (including playoffs), and each team’s most effective rusher on those plays was the quarterback. Kaepernick averaged 10.5 yards per rush on zone reads, and Wilson averaged 8.0 yards.
In Week 1, neither team eclipsed 100 yards rushing, and neither got the option game going. They both used the option seven times, combining for 46 yards. Wilson didn't rush once on those plays, and Kaepernick had two runs: one for no gain and one for minus-10 yards.
As their opponents geared up to stop the run though, Wilson and Kaepernick proved that their arms were up for the challenge.
Both quarterbacks set career highs for passing yards in a regular-season game in Week 1. Wilson threw for 320 yards, and the team ran for 70 (including seven from Wilson). Kaepernick threw for 412 yards, and the team recorded 90 rush yards, with 22 from the quarterback.
Although the rushing game stalled, the threat of the run helped fuel the play-action passing game.
Wilson’s 11 play-action completions in Week 1 were the most in the NFL, and his 182 yards on those plays were second to only Peyton Manning (200 yards). Since introducing the option in Week 13 against the Bears last season, Wilson has averaged 10.5 yards per attempt on play-action passes, a two-yard jump from his first 11 games.
Kaepernick was even more efficient on play action in Week 1, completing 9 of 11 attempts for 152 yards and two scores, all either matching or setting career highs.
The 49ers’ play-action game worked mostly to the benefit of Vernon Davis. Kaepernick completed all four attempts to him following a play-fake for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
The Seahawks and 49ers will likely find more success on the ground as the season progresses, but if Week 1 proved anything, it’s that opponents won’t be able to key in on one aspect of the offense.