The San Francisco 49ers got back to business with their 35-11 win over the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night. Despite the win, the 49ers continued to accrue penalties and give away the ball. If the team cannot fix these two big problems, the 49ers will have a tough time making it back to the Super Bowl in 2013.
The 49ers’ penalty problems began week one of the season. Despite earning a big win over the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers als earned 13 penalties. The flags continued in their next three games, with egregious performances against the Seattle Seahawks (12 penalties) and the Rams (11 penalties). Four weeks into the season, the 49ers are the second most penalized team in the NFL, behind only the New York Jets. Cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock lead the team with four penalties each. Aldon Smith was the second most penalized player on the team, with thre penalties, prior to his departure. Bruce Miller, Ahmad Brooks, Anthony Davis, Alex Boone, Jonathan Goodwin, Donte Whitner, Colin Kaepernick, Anquan Boldin and Corey Lemonier each have two penalties. The majority of the infractions are false starts (8), unnecessary roughness (6), defensive pass interference (4), and offensive holding (4) penalties.
These infractions represent an ongoing concern for the 49ers. Since Jim Harbaugh became head coach, the 49ers have ranked among the least disciplined teams in the league. In 2011, the 49ers incurred 122 penalties for 1,079 yards, ranking 9th in the NFL and averaging 6.78 penalties per game. In 2012, the team earned 126 flags for 1,103 yards, again ranking 9th in the NFL, averaging 6.63 penalties per game. However, in 2013, the 49ers have gotten off to their worst start yet, averaging approximately 9.75 penalties per game.
The 49ers’ turnovers are also a major concern. In 2011, the team had the best turnover differential in the NFL at +28. In 2012,
49ers were not as impressive but still finished the season with a +9 differential, ranking 8th in the NFL. Through the first month of the 2013 season, the 49ers, ranked 27th in the NFL, have a turnover differential of -4. The offense gave the ball away 9 times in the first 4 games.
Although the 49ers pulled out an important win against the Rams, these turnover and penalty problems should not be overlooked. Currently in second place in a very tough NFC West division with a 2-2 record, the 49ers cannot afford any mistakes if they want to gain ground on the undefeated Seahawks.