New Grantland: How Joe Flacco’s Big Arm Can Exploit the 49ers’ Secondary

It’s now up at Grantland:

The key to the 49ers’ success in that game, as well as for much of the past two years, is rooted in a common misconception about their defense. It’s often noted that the 49ers play almost entirely with two safeties deep, splitting the field into halves while the remaining defenders play man-to-man coverage. This tactic, which also relies heavily on the front seven to stop the run, is known as “Cover 2 Man” defense. The notion that the 49ers use this coverage almost exclusively is, like most misconceptions, rooted in some fact. The 49ers do use this coverage a great deal, but if they used it on every down, San Francisco’s defense would be much easier to attack than it actually is.

What Fangio and the 49ers actually do is mix and match their two-deep, Cover 2 Man coverage with a variety of “pattern match” zones — zone defenses that transform into a kind of man coverage after the snap. The 49ers use a variety of these pattern-match schemes (each of which is differentiated by a subtle change in a defender’s rules), but one I’ve seen them use with success all season is known to many coaches as “Two Read.


Read the whole thing.

  • Boourns76

    As a 49ers fan, and one who has watched you analyze (incredibly smartly I might add), the Redskins offense before the wildcard weekend, the Broncos offense before the divisional round, and the Patriots offense before the conference championship round, I very very very much appreciate the fact that you wrote on the Ravens offense this week. Thank you thank you thank you!

  • Sergio A. Becerril

    Curse thing aside (it’s apparently the new meme), great article Chris. It’s a joy to read your stuff.

  • fat dave

    I know this sounds like a very simple question, but just got done reading Mike Leach’s book. He said in terms of passing he usually only thought of the field as 30 yards vertical because pass protection could only hold blocks for an average of 3.2 seconds, In the nfl 2.7 to 2.9. Now I understand how you could freeze the defense for a second but how do you get it to where you can make 50+ yard throws?