Want to know the real down and dirty on why the 49ers and Raiders are spending a seventh straight season watching the playoffs rather than chasing a Super Bowl? It’s all in the numbers.
Check out these telltale stats.
Third-down efficiency: The Raiders and the 49ers were tied for last, both converting only 29.6 percent. Compare that to some of the NFL’s best: The Colts, Chargers, Packers, Vikings and Saints all came through on more than 44 percent of their third-down chances. Less success on third downs means fewer long drives.
The Raiders were tied for last in the league with just 0.8 red zone chances per game. The 49ers finished 22nd with only 1.4 trips inside opponents’ 20-yard line per game.
Not surprisingly, points were hard to come by on both sides of the Bay. The Raiders finished next to last averaging only 12.3 points per game. The 49ers ranked 18th, averaging just 20.6 points. Only one playoff team, the Cincinnati Bengals with 19.1, scored less than San Francisco.
Defensively the 49ers were among the league’s stingiest, giving up only 17.6 points per game, behind only the Jets, Cowboys and Ravens. San Francisco was also stout against the run, giving up just 97 yards per game — fifth best in the league.
Meanwhile, the Raiders compounded their offensive woes with a 23rd-ranked defense that allowed 23.7 points per game and a league-high 24 rushing touchdowns. It’s no wonder Oakland finished last in the NFL with only eight interceptions. Why throw the ball when opposing teams were able to average 4.5 yards a carry and 155.5 yards per game on the ground?
A host of key decisions await the Raiders this offseason. If they slap the franchise tag on free agent Richard Seymour, add a wide-body nose tackle and a hard-hitting linebacker to their current crop of impressive young players, they would have the makings of a pretty good defense. Oakland also needs to beef up its undersized offensive line, which paved the way for only seven rushing touchdowns and surrendered 49 sacks this season — third most in the league.
That done, all the Silver and Black would have to concern itself with are minor matters like who is the starting quarterback and head coach. Odds of both JaMarcus Russell and Tom Cable returning are dwindling. Russell may be an overweight, underachiever, but Al Davis has 30 million reasons to bring him back. Cable didn’t help his cause by saying the Raiders would have made the playoffs had they started the season with a different QB. Shades of Lane Kiffin. After Kiffin’s firing, a team official told me, “Mr. Davis gave him the keys to the car, Lane thought he owned the car.” Cable’s locker room support may not be enough to put him back in the driver’s seat.
There’s less drama and fewer holes to fill in S.F. The 49ers’ defense will benefit greatly from the return of injured starting cornerbacks Nate Clements and Walt Harris. Free agent nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin is making noise about leaving, but look for the team to make a strong bid to keep him.
Alex Smith may never be among the game’s best quarterbacks, but give him better protection and another downfield threat, and the 49ers will likely end their postseason drought in 2010.
KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news and is also the co-host of “Raiders Gameday” and “Recap” talk shows on KSFO (560 AM). He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.