What’s Behind the 49ers Inconsistency?

Nov 30, 2010 at 12:36 PM


I'll admit it - I was happy as a hypochondriac at CVS with an unlimited budget during the 49ers' thrashing of Arizona on Monday night. The ease with which the offense moved the ball up and down the field was reminiscent of the times when, you know, the 49ers were known for having an offense. And the defense stymied the Cardinals, literally pummeling the Cardinal's will to score.

So how the hell did this team get shut out at home last week? This is the real question for the Troy Smith led 49ers team. Why the apparent roller coaster from week to week?

Part of the answer lies in the run game. If the 49ers start off with a strong running game, the rest of the game is more likely to fall into place. Looking at the first half rushing performances over the last 4 games, a solid per carry average is directly correlated to a strong offensive performance. In wins against Denver, St. Louis and Arizona the 49ers gained 4.8, 3.6 and 5.8 yards per carry (YPC) respectively. In their loss to Tampa Bay, Frank Gore averaged an abysmal 1.4 YPC. Troy Smith was the leading rusher in the first half with 15 yards.

Part of the problems with the running game are also schematic. The 49ers employ a very predictable running attack. Against Denver, the opening series had 7 running plays that flowed through Mike Iupati, either running into his gap or having him pull to the right. Tampa Bay defenders clearly saw this on film and knew that they had to "follow Iupati to the ball."

The 49ers running game isn't going to out-scheme very many teams. The 49ers rely on simply having a better offensive line than other teams, over utilizing the trap play behind a pulling Mike Iupati. And while Iupati is arguably the best offensive lineman on the team, the 49ers will not be able to line up and push around very many defensive lines in the NFL. The 49ers are simply relying too much on having players better than the opposing team in a league where gaping talent gaps are becoming less frequent.

I hate to say it, but Singletary is right. The 49ers have to run the ball effectively to have a hope of taking the NFC West crown. That task will become more difficult with the loss of Frank Gore as Gore excelled at running the trap play. Brian Westbrook, while a very good running back in his own right, runs with a very different style.

And maybe, just maybe, Frank Gore's injury will force the 49ers to vary their running game to accommodate Westbrook. Because it is very apparent that Troy Smith's passing success is predicated on the play action pass. And when the play action pass works, the Troy Smith led 49ers could be worthy of a division crown.
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.


3 Comments

  • Frank
    It was good to see the Niner running game working...but, it was against a totally inept 'Zona team that seemed uninspired, listless and basicallly bush-league. Looking at the rest of the Niner's schedule, they most likely won't have similar success 'til the last game of the season against...you guessed it, the hapless Cards. I see three road losses...and I'm not very confident they can beat Seattle at home. So, in the end, I see a best case 6-10 record, with 5-11 a possibility. If that doesn't prompt Jed York to fire Singletary, then there's no hope for the future.
    Dec 2, 2010 at 5:46 AM
    0
    Response: Agreed.
  • jim
    Did you see the Cardinal defensive front line at all? When Troy was in the shotgun, there were plays where he himself could have just walked to the marker for the 1st down. If Steve Young was still QB, he alone would have rushed for over 200 yards.
    Dec 1, 2010 at 8:25 AM
    0
  • staysmashin80
    We moved the ball so easily simply because the Cardinals are terrible! We still could not figure out how to get the ball into the end zone in the second half. The Cardinals are horrible on offense although I think that we have a strong D we will never shut a even good run game down the way we did the Cards. I agree that a strong run game is the key to open up the offense for Troy but when he is over throwing guys wide open in the end zone and guys are doping passes it makes us very predictable!! I went to M.N.F.B and me and the guy sitting behind me took turns looking at the offensive formations and calling what the play would be before the snap! Now by no stretch of the imagination am I in any way saying that it is that easy but I would hope that it would be a little harder than that!
    Dec 1, 2010 at 5:14 AM
    0
    Response: Yes, the Cardinals are really that bad. But the problem is we won't face teams that bad every week.

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