Mothballing options doesn’t seem like the M.O. of a team vying for a Super Bowl, but the San Francisco 49ers have done just that, going against the grain by depriving their offense of a screen game. It’s not killing their chances, but with what they have, why neglect it?
Variables like the personnel and their way that opponents have decided to attack them have made it seem like a no-brainer.
Moreover, the reason why fans and analysts alike are still harping on the topic is because this offensive line is one of the best in football. Also, the Niners have untapped resources at running back that won’t see the field otherwise—namely since they don’t fit the power ideology of this offense.
Whether or not popular belief was that running backs Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James would expand San Francisco’s passing game has been irrelevant. Two years into their tenure and the 49ers have had zero urgency to get them involved or develop the offense around their unique skill sets.
It just hasn’t happened.
According to the stat keepers at Pro Football Focus, the 49ers have only run five screen plays to halfbacks the entire season, which is the second fewest in the NFL. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman says the few that they’ve run “have been snuffed out,” per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
While four of five have been completed, they’ve only gone for 22 yards (5.5 YPA).
Maiocco says, “What’s clear is that the 49ers’ offensive line—one of the best offensive lines in the game—is a power offensive line. They are not setup for the finesse plays that screen plays have to have their offensive lineman perform.”
That seems to be the core argument as to why this team is not capable. But it’s not everything.
This ongoing perplexity is one that needs salvation once and for all. The following piece will ask some questions and progressively myth-bust the notion that the 49ers offense cannot effectively run screens.