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Calling a LaMichael James run up the middle was a bad start.
On 1st-and-goal, the Niners ran the ball up the middle with backup running back LaMichael James.
With Frank Gore on the sidelines catching his breath after ripping off a long run on the previous play, Greg Roman figured James' fresh legs would give the 49ers some sort of spark.
The result? A poorly designed play that led a small running back directly into a wall of big, hungry Ravens defenders.
Here are the key problems with this call on 1st-and-goal:
1. With Frank Gore clearly gassed, how do you bring in LaMichael James and not run some sort of option or counter play?
James isn't Gore. He's not going to carry the ball up the gut and back a defense up. He's just not that type of runner.
Your only hope for James to break through up the middle is that he finds some sort of crease and slips through it for a big gain. But when you're that close to the end zone, you have to understand as a play-caller that the Ravens are going to clog up those lanes by any means necessary.
2. The lack of creativity was shocking.
James needs open space to inflict maximum damage.
The read-option was working wonders, so why not plug James in for that situation and take a chance?
Sure, the Niners ran the ball out of their diamond formation, but there was no zone-read element to complement it. It was a generic "pound the rock up the middle" play.
Had they gotten James the ball using a more creative approach (like they did versus the Falcons in the NFC title game), the outcome could have been different.
All in all, this first call was just dreadful. And it became a sign of things to come for the rest of the drive.