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Film From the Field House: Four Plays to Jump-Start the 49ers Ground Game

Bret Rumbeck
Dec 13, 2020 at 5:00 AM


Since Week 8, the San Francisco 49ers' run game has tallied 354 yards on 118 attempts. If you're keeping a mental score, that's 3.0 yards per attempt.

Part of the decline was due to running back Raheem Mostert being on injured reserve for over a month. But even with Mostert in the lineup against the Buffalo Bills, the 49ers only gained 86 yards on 21 attempts.

A lackluster running game has had its impact on the passing game. Head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense needs a ground attack to set up play-action, and movement plays, both of which play off inside and outside zone runs.

Here are four runs from the past few weeks the 49ers need to use this afternoon to jumpstart the offense.

Week 13: 1st Quarter – 1st and 10 at the BUF 25 (5:03)



'15 Suzy' is the corresponding play to Shanahan's weakside or 'Wanda' outside zone runs. When the 49ers run 'Wanda', Shanahan asks his backs and the offensive line to attack weak. However, when 'Suzy' is uttered in the huddle, the run flips from the weakside to the strongside. Both the fullback and running back cut strong after three steps.

Defensive players are taught to read keys on the offensive line, such as the guards, as these usually guide them to the ball carrier.

'15 Suzy' takes advantage of that in-grained training. With the offensive line and both backs baiting the defense with a read step to the weak side, the defense has no choice but to go with them.

Once the fullback and running back cut strong, it's often too late for the linebackers to make up lost ground.


Shanahan called 'Suzy' early in the game against Buffalo, and while it only gained four yards, I think it was due to tight end Ross Dwelley not cutting back to block cornerback Tre'Davious White.

'Suzy' is a solid play to keep on the call sheet. Last season, the 49ers opened the game against the Browns with a 'Suzy' call and scored an 83-yard touchdown.

Week 13: 1st Quarter – 1st and Goal at the BUF 10 (3:29)



If 'Suzy' is the flip of 'Wanda,' then 'Arc Bend' is the opposite of a strong side run like '18 Force'.

Both backs again sell the play to any linebacker peeking over the line to read the ball. The fullback starts toward the strong side, and on roughly his third step, he bends back to key on the end man on the line of scrimmage.

The running back follows the fullback and cuts back to the weak side on this third step.

If the play looks familiar, Shanahan called 'Arc Bend' during the divisional game against the Minnesota Vikings. Mostert gained seven yards on the play.


Running back Jeff Wilson gained eight yards and nearly scored on the play above.

Week 12: 2nd Quarter – 2nd and 1 at the SF 34 (4:20)


Part of why Mostert is such an excellent fit for Shanahan's run game is how fast he reads and reacts to the small gaps in the offensive line.

Zone runs do not have designated holes, much like your typical high school offense did. When a high school team ran to the 6-hole, it ran to the right side over the right tackle. Shanahan might list the 9-hole as the designated spot for the back, but the back is told to read each gap, one at a time outside-in.

When Mostert sees where he wants to go, he plants his foot in the grass and bolts forward.


'19 Force Cat' is a run designed to attack the outside edge of the strong side. The running back keys on the outside leg of the tight end to 'bounce' around the edge but can 'bend' back against the grain or 'bang' inside.


On this play, Mostert saw a gap between the left tackle Trent Williams and left guard Laken Tomlinson to 'bang' inside and gain ten yards.

The way to tell this is 'force cat' is to watch the Z receiver. The 'cat' term tells the Z receiver to block the strong safety rather than the corner, which is what wide receiver Deebo Samuel executed.

Week 7: 2nd Quarter – 2nd and 2 at the NE 30 (8:13)


'Wanda' is Shanahan's outside zone run, but '14 Weak' is how he can run inside to the weak side.


'14 Weak' is an inside zone run that keys on the inside leg of the tackle on the weak side. Again, the running back reads the block of the first defensive lineman inside-out from the center.

The fullback is told to remove the Will linebacker from the play by any means necessary. He is reading the inside leg of the play side tackle and reacting to what he sees.

Typically, Shanahan might run '14 Weak' from an I or a Weak backfield alignment. Against the Rams, he had fullback Kyle Juszczyk align in the 'Box' formation and then come down the scrimmage line to shoot through the A-gap to block the Will linebacker.

Wilson gained 17 yards on the play, thanks to right guard Daniel Brunskill and right tackle Mike McGlinchey. The 49ers scored three plays later.

Among the goals for the 49ers today must be to control the ball as they did in their first possession against the Bills. The offense needs to sustain drives and find ways to keep the momentum in its corner. That will come, but a fearsome rushing attack is the first key to success.

All images courtesy of NFL.com.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless noted.
  • Bret Rumbeck
  • Written by:
    Bret Rumbeck has been writing about the 49ers since 2017 for 49ers Webzone and 49ers Hub. He is a Turlock, CA native, and has worked for two members of the US House of Representatives and one US Senator. When not breaking down game film, Bret spends his time seeking out various forms of heavy metal. Feel free to follow him or direct inquiries to @brumbeck.
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.


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