How good are the 49ers starting five offensive linemen in the run game?
If you ask the guys at Pro Football Focus, pretty damn good.
In fact, so good that PFF has graded each of the 49ers five starters in the top five of their respective positions in run-blocking. PFF's unique grading scale assesses players on their performance during every single snap they take and in every facet of the game.
They keep the statistical element out of the equation, but the numbers make a strong case for just how unstoppable the 49ers run game is, too.
In San Francisco's four wins, the offense has averaged 223 rushing yards per game. In their two losses? A meager 84.5 YPG. Only, it's not because opponents are thwarting the Niners ground game. That's not it at all.
It's simply not being utilized enough.
The 49ers offense ran 60 plays from scrimmage in their 26-3 loss to the Giants on Sunday; only 17 of them were runs and only 12 of those carries were distributed to Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter.
Gore had zero carries in the second half. Zero.
In the 24-13 Week 3 loss to Minnesota, offensive coordinator Greg Roman called 38 pass plays as opposed to just 20 rushes—16 of them going to either Gore or Hunter. 10 of the 13 plays in the first quarter were designed pass plays against the Vikings and 13 of the 22 first-quarter snaps against the Giants were passes as well.
Now, it is understandable to endorse the idea that starting out with a pass-heavy game plan could surprise an opponent that is coming in with full intentions of stopping the 49ers' potent rushing attack at all costs.
And it's not as if the offense wasn't moving the ball early in their two losses. Each of the 49ers first two drives against the Giants were 12 plays, totaling 120 yards. Against Minnesota, the offense piled up 31 plays and 121 yards on drives one through three.
But each instance produced just three points. So, that alone is one concern. Efficiency is key, and the Niners have been the exactly the opposite of efficient in their two losses.
But the real issue lies not with the intent to take to the air early in games, rather a failure to adjust once opponents pick up on what these intentions are that is concerning.
The good news, however, is that Harbaugh and his staff are insanely dedicated to their craft and should realize that opponents are wising up to their willingness to stray from their strength in an attempt to catch them off guard.
Learning that lesson before the stakes grow any higher is crucial.
Despite shying away from their talented ball-carriers on occasion, the 49ers still lead the NFL in rushing yards (1,061) and yards per attempt (6.0) through six games. Whether or not the opposing defense knows it's coming, it works.
Please, use it.