Run or Pass?

Oct 9, 2001 at 12:00 AM


The 49ers are rolling. Their young defense is stepping up and making plays. The offensive line is starting to find its rhythm and is opening holes for Hearst and Barlow. Hearst seems to have lost any tentativeness he may have had. The rushing offense is now #2 in the NFL at over 150 yards a game.

Yet the big story out of San Francisco is that the 49ers are struggling to find their offense.

“I'm not complaining about the play-calling, but I think that when I'm working at my best is when I'm in a rhythm of throwing 70 percent of the time,” Garcia told the Oakland Tribune.

After Owens, we note that JJ Stokes and Tai Streets have not been thrown many balls. The offense is running a lot and, sometimes, running predictably: they have run the ball 12 out of 14 times on second down following an incompletion. Games that are dominated by the 49ers – like the Jets game – are staying close due to the conservative playcalling. Most alarmingly, the 49ers rank 28th in the NFL in average yards gained per first down.

So are the 49ers best off sticking with the run or trying some more pass plays? I think it’s a little bit of both.

I mean, let’s not overreact. The 49ers are 3-1 because of the running game and the defense. Championship teams need to have both, and consistently. The equation Steve Mariucci is using works and the 49ers are winning with it. That’s the most important thing. Jeff Garcia, for all his concern, is still on pace to pass for 3,236 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. That’s not bad. And no team should throw 70% of the time, as Garcia has suggested. That’s not good for any offense, even the 49ers.

And as much as the 49ers defense deserves praise, let’s remember that they are still very young and learning. This defense has not arrived. Regardless of their tenure, Jeff Ulbrich, Andre Carter, Jamie Winborn, and Reggie McGrew are seeing their first significant action on the field. The running game has been a big boost for them by chewing up the time of possession.

On the flip side, I do think that the 49ers should open things up a bit. They have gotten off to slow starts in all of their games, and one of the main reasons for this is the tentative passing game. What happened to the habit of scripting the first 15 plays? The 49ers used to come out and hit you early. Yet the 49ers have opened most of their games with three and outs.

The best solution is to address the first down woes. When asked which down was the best to throw on, Bill Walsh always said without blinking: 'First down'. You are likely facing a standard defensive set that is looking for a running play. Rarely does a team play with passing schemes on first down. Play action passing on first down is as close to a sure thing as passing plays can get.

The 49ers need to script a few first down passing plays for the Falcons on Sunday. They don’t need to pass much more than they are now – just enough to show a defense that, if we want to, we can win by throwing. The way to do that is to throw vertically on a few downs when we are expected to run. On first down. On second and short. Other than that, I am fine with sticking to the run.

They should also make sure that some of these plays call for Stokes and Streets to get the ball. Teams with good cover corners are going to start double teaming Owens effectively anyway, so we better start giving them more to think about. Owens is tough to cover, but good corners that have help can negate him if they really put their mind to it.

So I say: stick with what’s working for the most part, but add a few surprise passing plays early in the game.

Forcing Leadership / Other Ramblings
Why are we forcing leadership on Terrell Owens? Why is Minnesota doing it with Randy Moss? We see this with a lot of franchises - they take their young stars and urge them to become leaders, even if those young stars don't have leadership qualities off the field. In Minnesota, Moss is the main man on offense, so the Vikings have tried to urge him to become a leader. That's a mistake. When he broke down on the podium while trying to discuss Korey Stringer’s death, it was a touching reminder that Moss is not ready for such responsibility. When he tried to squirt a ref with a water bottle after a close call two years ago, it was a childish reminder. When he gives up on half his routes like he did against Carolina, it was a frustrating reminder. Randy Moss is just a kid, and a kid who can’t figure himself out is hardly the person teammates should turn to for answers. As much as Moss can help you on the field, he will hurt you in the locker room with his immaturity. Do your leaders in the locker room always have to be stars on the field? I don’t think so. Just look at Terry Jackson…The Bears look legit and I’m worried about our matchup. Not only are the Bears playing great football, but they are also geared up to play us. Many Bears veterans viewed the 17-0 loss to the 49ers last year as the low point of their season and a testament to what was wrong with the Cade McKnown era. They will be doubly motivated to show the 49ers – and the league – that they are a different, rejuvenated Bears team in 2001. If I had to put money on the game right now, I am sad to say that it would be with the Bears...
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


0 Comments

  • No Comments

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



49ers begin their playoff run against an old rival

By Sasha D. Robinson
Jan 12

The San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys will begin a new chapter of their historic playoff rivalry. The two teams will meet at AT&T Stadium on January 16. The 49ers and Cowboys could arguably be considered one of the greatest rivalries of all time. It includes over 31 NFL Hall of Famers that either played, coached, or worked in the front office during the time of the rivalry. Out of the seven times the two teams have met, the winner went on to win the Super Bowl five times. On December 23, 1972, the Cowboys scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of the Divisional round matchup for a 30-28 comeback victory over the 49ers. Unlike "rivalries" like the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots in the 2000s, the 49ers and Cowboys



Arik Armstead's unselfish play a big reason for 49ers' impressive run defense, says DeMeco Ryans

By David Bonilla
Jan 14

The San Francisco 49ers run defense has been as good as anybody's through the second half of the season. In fact, The Athletic's David Lombardi pointed out that the 49ers own the NFL's top run defense since their Week 6 bye. That's about when defensive lineman Arik Armstead moved to primarily play inside, filling in for an injured Javon Kinlaw. The 49ers don't see that as a coincidence. "I think our run defense improved drastically because of the unselfish play by Arik Armstead," defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said on Friday. "I think people kind of forget we lost our starter in Kinlaw early in the year, and we were trying to figure that out inside. When you want to



Watch Deebo Samuel's amazing TD run, extending 49ers lead over Cowboys

By David Bonilla
Jan 16

Deebo Samuel called himself a "wide back" this past week. That's because he's a wide receiver that can play running back and do it well. The Dallas Cowboys are experiencing this first hand in the NFC Wild Card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. With his 49ers holding onto a 16-7 lead in the third quarter, cornerback K'Waun Williams picked off Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, getting the football back for the offense. On the next play, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo handed the football off to Samuel, who made some magic happen and ended up in the end zone for a 26-yard



49ers' Deebo Samuel to Kyle Shanahan before TD run vs. Cowboys: 'Just give me the ball. I got you.'

By David Bonilla
Jan 16

Deebo Samuel has become a very confident player for the San Francisco 49ers. He is willing to do whatever it takes to get the football in his hands and make a play. Samuel is a wide receiver but lines up as a running back too. He led the 49ers with eight rushing touchdowns this season. Samuel had another rushing touchdown during Sunday's 23-17 playoff win against the Dallas Cowboys. That one was impressive, as it involved Samuel improvising on the play and turning back inside to get into the end zone. That wasn't how the play was drawn up, by the way. How did Deebo even find this hole? 😱


Featured

More by Bradford Seaman

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone