Last year the 49ers' read-option offense tormented defenses and sent opponents scurrying to all corners of the nation in search of ways to stop it. Judging from the numbers, it looks like they found the antidote. According to research from Pro Football Focus (@PFF), the 49ers have averaged a piddly 1.1 ground yards when they've run the read-option this year. That includes both plays in which Colin Kaepernick keeps the ball and those in which he gives it up to a tailback.
Still, the read option is far from dormant across the NFL, according to the PFF figures. Other teams that have read-option-capable quarterbacks have been running it with success. It's become a component of the Oakland's offense now that Terrelle Pryor is leading it, and the Raiders average 7.7 yards with it. Philadelphia and new head coach Chip Kelly use the read-option more than any team and average 7.1 yards a carry. NFL teams are on pace to call twice as many read-option plays as last season, although the average yard per run is down from 2012.
So why haven't the 49ers been able to sustain the success they had in 2012? A big part - and the subject of a story in Sunday's Bee - is that opponents simply are better prepared for it. That is, Kaepernick and the read option were novelties last season. He's not a surprise this year, and defenses are arriving with a game plan designed to stop the read option.
Three other teams that used it heavily in 2012 - Carolina, Washington and Seattle - all have seen their averages dip through the first four games this season, though not as prominently as the 49ers' drop. It will be interesting to see whether the Raiders and Eagles can sustain their read-option success or whether NFL defenses will catch up with them, too.
MIA: 5 carries, 42 yards, 8.4-yard avg.
OAK: 21 carries, 162 yards, 7.7-yard avg.
PHI: 73 carries, 520 yards, 7.1-yard avg.
SEA 25 carries, 134 yards, 5.4-yard avg.
GB 1 carry, 5 yards, 5-yard avg.
TEN 1 carry, 5 yards, 5-yard avg.
NYJ 14 carries, 61 yards, 4.4-yard avg.
CAR 24 carries, 95 yards, 4-yard avg.
WAS 14 carries, 54 yards, 3.9-yard avg.
BUF 47 carries, 128 yards, 2.7-yard avg.
MIN 3 carries, 8 yards, 2.7-yard avg.
JAX 3 carries, 6 yards, 2-yard avg.
KC 5 carries, 10 yards, 2-yard avg.
SF 16 carries, 17 yards, 1.1-yard avg.
TB 1 carry, 1 yard, 1-yard avg.
CLV 3 carries, 2 yards, 0.7-yard avg.
Total: 256 carries,1250 yards, 4.9-yard avg.
BUF 13 carries, 108 yards, 8.3-yard avg.
BLT 6 carries, 46 yards, 7.7-yard avg.
PHI 3 carries, 23 yards, 7.7-yard avg.
MIA 10 carries, 75 yards, 7.5-yard avg.
SEA 50 carries, 374 yards, 7.5-yard avg.
CAR 142 carries, 856 yards, 6-yard avg.
WAS 134 carries, 798 yards, 6-yard avg.
ARZ 4 carries, 22 yards, 5.5-yard avg.
CIN 3 carries, 15 yards, 5-yard avg.
SF 49 carries, 220 yards, 4.5-yard avg.
NYJ 32 carries, 128 yards, 4-yard avg.
PIT 1 carry, 3 yards, 3-yard avg.
OAK 2 carries, 4 yards, 2-yard avg
SD 1 carry, 2 yards, 2-yard avg.
MIN 1 carry, 1 yard 1-yard avg.
IND 1 carry, 0 yards 0-yard avg.
TEN 5 carries, -14 yards, -2.8-yard avg.
Total: 457 carries, 2661 yards, 5.8-yard avg.
Source: Pro Football Focus
* regular season only
-- Matt Barrows