Improved 49ers doing it with D, a la 1981

Improved 49ers doing it with D, a la 1981
November 1, 2011, 3:58 pm
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These numbers are for comparison only, and not as proof that the 49ers are going to do in 2011 what they did 30 years earlier from 6-10 to a parade.In 1980, the 49ers ranked 13th in total offense; in 1981, they rose to seventh. A modest but decent climb.In 1980, the 49ers ranked 26th in total defense, out of 28 teams; in 1981, they were second.Sound familiar?
This, then, is the quick fix the defense. And whatever your position on Jim Harbaugh might be, he does understand history.
The 1981 49ers managed to take 165 points off their defensive total, more than a touchdown and field goal PER GAME. Also, they dropped 1,206 yards of unsightly fat, 75 yards PER GAME. That was with Bill Walsh, offensive genius.Also, Bill Walsh, football historian. He knew that building a defense was easier and faster than an offense, and he did such a thing. He didn't expect the kind of return he got, but he knew it was the sounder path.This 49ers transformation isnt that stark from 16th last year to 1st so far this season, and greater mathematicians than I can figure out the more arcane metrics and strength of schedule caveats with our blessings.And while the offense has gone from 24th to 8th in points scored, which would seem to undercut the message here, they are 31st in plays run from scrimmage, 20th in yards per play, 24th in total yards, and 25th in first downs.This suggests that the offense has benefited from a plus-10 turnover ratio, and a goodly number of short fields, which means that the offense is running well under optimal conditions. Nothing wrong with that, but it helps to understand that this leap from no to go is largely a defensive creation. And that there is a template for how high such improvement can take a team.I mean, in case you were sending a coldcut platter to team headquarters or something like that. After all, you know what they say about the best of times when you have to say it, say it with cured meats.Ray Ratto is a columnist for

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