In the Pro Football 360 (Live! Every day! 3 p.m. ET!) video above, Pete Prisco and I break down whether the 49ers, coming off their second loss of the season, are in trouble. The short answer is hell no. It's because they have lots of talent, especially on defense, and a strong running game. And, Jim Harbaugh is a master motivator and gameplanner. Just don't tell him that or he'll accuse you of trying to influence the referees or something.
He's so good, in fact, that Harbaugh has never lost two games in a row as head coach of the 49ers. The former Stanford coach has compiled a 17-5 record in just under a year-and-a-half. But what's really impressive is how his teams performed following a loss.
The fifth such game will go down on Thursday night against Seattle. And based on the performance of the Niners in the other four games following a loss, the Seahawks should be extremely worried:
Rush Yards Allowed
Pass Yards Allowed
2011, Week 3
2011, Week 13
2011, Week 15
@ New York Jets
2012, Week 4
Yikes. So, following a loss, the 49ers average 23.25 points per game. Pretty good. But the defense giving up 2.75 points per game, 59.75 rushing yards per game and 170 passing yards per game? That's filthy.
It's also worth noting that in these four games, the 49ers defense generated a total of 13 turnovers. Not too shabby, either.
No, the Bengals, Rams, Steelers and Jets aren't a murderer's row of offensive juggernauts. And, yes, four games is a relatively small sample size; it's what I've got to work with, though. What I find interesting about the transition in these losses is the public quotes about being motivated and generally angry at the world for not respecting the 49ers.
In looking at statistical averages for 2011, the Bengals saw a 32-yard dip from their rushing average and a 59-yard dip from their passing average. Cincinnati averaged 4.0 yards per carry in this contest, Andy Dalton threw two picks and the 49ers limited the Bengals to 1-of-10 on third-down conversions. Please remember that this game was well before anyone began respecting the 49ers or even considering them that dangerous. We didn't really get the 49ers mouthing off afterwards.
The Rams saw a 73-yard drop from their rushing average and a 26-yard decline in their total from their passing average. They averaged 1.3 yards per carry, went 4-of-14 on third downs, A.J. Feely (excuse!) was sacked four times and threw one interception. This game clinched the NFC West title for the 49ers ... in December.
"It's not a Hollywood team," Harbaugh said afterwards. "It's a blue-collar team."
And so it begins ...
The Steelers game was the infamous power outage(s) at Candlestick Park. The Steelers averaged 4.4 yards per rush that day and a gimpy (excuse!) Ben Roethlisberger went over 300 yards passing but also had three picks and a fumble lost. Aldon Smith sacked him 2.5 times and registered a whopping seven quarterback hits.
"I think we showed the world we can play the game of football on a national stage," tight end Vernon Davis said after the game. "At the end of the day that's what it's all about: respect."
Respect -- or a lack thereof -- is something we've heard plenty of when it comes to the 49ers. Many people don't believe that they can succeed given a lack of an elite quarterback on the roster and the fact that they predicate their game on running the ball and playing defense.
When they lost to the Vikings earlier this year, the newly-reloaded 49ers bandwagon began to empty pretty quickly. That lasted all of one week, when they obliterated the Jets in New York, 34-0.
Rex Ryan's ground-and-pound offense averaged a meager 2.6 yards per carry, converted 2-of-13 third downs, lost three fumbles and Mark Sanchez was intercepted once. Harbaugh even trolled Ryan by running Colin Kaepernick out of the Pistol for a touchdown. The Niners made it clear they didn't appreciate being disrespected.
"Yeah, that's right," Aldon Smith said after calling the victory a statement game. "After the last game, some people were questioning us and we knew what we were capable of. We played all together as a unit and proved what we are as a defense."
"For sure, the whole week there was more of an edge; it was just a bad taste in your mouth," Alex Smith said afterwards. "I don't think that goes away in one day. We wanted to be 3-1 and got it done."
So what happens on Thursday when the Niners host the Seahawks? Well, this doesn't set up well for Seattle at all. The game is in San Francisco. Seattle is starting a rookie quarterback (albeit one who finally had the training wheels taken off). The Seahawks thrive on running the ball (seventh in rushing yards per game, 31st in passing yards per) and play stout defense.
It's the sort of game that favors the 49ers tremendously, even Pete Carroll's defense thrives on stopping the run (70 yards per game, second in the NFL) and features an extremely opportunistic secondary.
Really, only a fool would project a Seattle victory.