This could end up being complete fantasy borne of the worst kind of sporting hubris or it could be the moment of clairvoyance to beat all moments of clairvoyance. Regardless, the San Francisco 49ers have the physical talent in the running game and the minds to utilize them.
This combination has the potential, however remote the possibility is, to feature a rushing attack that is capable of out-gaining the opposing offense's passing attack from week to week. And this has little to do with how good the 49ers' defense is.
First of all, the motivation to run the ball enough to gain 250 yards or more on the ground each game is definitely present when it comes to Jim Harbaugh. This is a guy who went for it on 4th-and-6 well outside the two-minute warning of last season's blowout of Tampa Bay because he wanted to finish the game running the ball down the Bucs' throats rather than punt and put the defense back out. That's how Jim Harbaugh's mind works.
I get the strong feeling that he's also an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" type of guy and one thing that has never been broken this year is the 49ers running game. With the addition of Colin Kaepernick along with Alex Smith's already-present ability to run the ball, the 49ers feature a plethora of capable runners.
Imagine the possibilities if the entirety of their running corps were used significantly within the game plan, as has been called for by many fans regarding their passing game.
Frank Gore could easily average 100 yards per game the rest of the year, Hunter and Kaepernick another 45 each, Smith 25 per game on a couple of designed runs and a scramble or two, toss in another 15 per game for Brandon Jacobs and, say, 40 more via end-arounds, reverses and fly sweeps with Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams or Michael Crabtree, and this is a team that could feasibly average 270 yards or so on the ground per game.
That is a tall order to say the least. But if there is one team with the right combination of players and coaches good enough and committed enough to spread around that many carries per game, it's the 49ers.
And here's the kicker: Teams will certainly adjust to these elements accordingly, but the Niners hold a pretty big ace up their sleeves because they also have the physical capability to overcome even defensive players playing everything fundamentally sound.
Their offensive line is the strongest line in the league at the point of attack in the run game. They keep it pretty simple with the blocking schemes, aside from frequent pulling with their guards and some sweeps with Staley leading the way down the left sideline. And don't forget about the blocking abilities of Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, along with their abilities to run.
For the most part, though, they all simply line up and maul the other guy like a poorly-bred molosser with a wad of gunpowder up his nose. That's pretty hard to game-plan against. Like Mike Tyson once wisely said, "Everybody has a plan 'til they get punched in the face."
Another factor working in favor of this potential scenario is Alex Smith and the passing game. Even with the addition of Manningham and an improved Crabtree and Williams, the talent level isn't the same as what the backfield can feature.
But will the 49ers commit that heavily to the run and is it really that sustainable? Greg Roman himself said in his post-game press conference that even the late scores were simply a result of executing within the normal framework of the offense.
Clearly, against poor teams this is a group that has the capabilities to put up record-breaking numbers. Additionally, the better teams that the 49ers will face also have offenses for the most part that they would like to keep off the field for long stretches. Cue the running game.
We may see the 49ers use the running game from here on out like we haven't seen in San Francisco since the days of the Million Dollar Backfield.
I'm not sure if the 49ers will start running the ball 45 times or more per game, but I expect them to run it more frequently than any other team in the NFL and continue to build on their league-leading 195.8 yards per game on the ground. The recipe is certainly there for this team to feature the best rushing attack in recent memory.
The NFL is a copycat league and the way the 49ers use the ground game will be mimicked by other coaches across the league and trigger a paradigm shift in the way NFL offenses are designed.
This could be the beginning of The Next Big Thing.
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