If the San Francisco 49ers are finally going to make the playoffs a feat the team has not done since 2002, Michael Crabtree is going to have to be called upon more in the offense. If the first game was any indication of how Crabtree is going to be used, it will be a long season for the 49ers.
Besides Crabtree the whole receiving core is going to have to be utilized more.
While it was just the first game of the season and hopefully the only game in which the opponent is overlooked, the main concern was the total lack of offense by the 49ers. Frank Gore could not get it going against the Seattle Seahawks defense, the offensive line was discombobulated, Alex Smith didn't have much time to throw, plays were not getting called in time so timeouts were wasted especially in the first half,,and the receivers were hardly utilized.
After the game and in an interview offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was blamed for not having the plays ready in time. Regardless of the plays not getting in on time, there was no excuse for the offense to look this bad against the Seahawks.
Even Jimmy Johnson gave his thoughts on the game and all that he mentioned was "if you stop Gore, the 49ers offense will not click." If the game on Sunday was any example then yes if Gore is bottled up the offense is going to look bad.
The sad part is the 49ers have playmakers at the wide receiver and tight end position, so how come only in the first quarter there was success? Crabtre, Josh Morgan, Vernon Davis, and Delanie Walker were involved in the first two series of the game.
As the game progressed only Davis really had any kind of success against the Seahawks defense. Part of it was on the offensive line as Chris Clemons was terrorizing the line, but when Smith rolled out of the pocket he had more time to find receivers and yet still couldn't manage anything down the field.
Davis ended the game with eight catches for 73 yards and a long of 16 yards and the next highest player in receptions for the 49ers was not a receiver or a tight end it was Frank Gore who had six catches for 45 yards.
Morgan ended up leading the receivers in catches with three catches for 32 yards, Walker also had three catches for 27 yards, Crabtree had two catches for 12 yards, Ted Ginn Jr had a catch for 19 yards, Dominique Ziegler had a catch for 10 yards, Nate Byham a catch for five yards, and Moran Norris a catch for two yards.
Separating the catches out it looks like this:
- Tight Ends: 12 catches for 105 yards, and a long of 16 yards.
- Wide Receivers: 7 catches for 73 yards, and a long of 19 yards.
- Backfield: 7 catches for 45 yards, and a long of 23 yards
- Totals: 26 catches for 225 yards
There will not be a lot of games won by the 49ers if the running back in this case has the longest reception of the game.
Another problem is that the top two wide receivers for the 49ers caught five passes for 44 yards. That's an inexcusable number of yards.
Take for example in Arizona Steve Breaston and Larry Fitzgerald with a new quarterback in Derek Anderson combined to catch 10 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown. Doubled the 49ers duo in receptions and had 131 more yards receiving.
In the game against the Seahhawks for the 49ers there's only one pass by Smith that went more than 10 yards to Crabtree and that was the route where Smith thought that Crabtree was going to go in and instead Crabtree ran an out and the play resulted in the Marcus Trufant return for a touchdown.
The first interception of the game was on a pass not more than six yards and it hit Crabtree right in the chest. He should have made the catch and even if he did it would have meant he'd have three catches for 18 yards, but it didn't happen and the play resulted in an interception that was returned 20 yards.
As for the two catches for Crabtree one went for nine yards and that was on a fourth and one play, the other catch went for three yards. Again three yards! What offense in football would have their best receiver run a route that went for three yards?
Morgan on the other hand made one catch in the first quarter for eight yards, he didn't catch another pass until the fourth quarter in garbage time. One of the receptions for seven yards and the other was for 17 yards.
So, when the 49ers were still in the game one pass went Morgan's direction and when the game was out of reach that's when Morgan had two passes thrown his way.
Even more disturbing though is the lack of throws down the field besides Ginn's 19 yard reception, there was a throw down the field to Ginn but it wasn't on target by Smith, and the other pass down the field was to Davis who beat the linebacker in coverage, but Smith overshot Davis by plenty to the point where the pass was nearly intercepted.
What is troubling though is that zero throws deep balls were thrown to Crabtree or Morgan. Even worse there were only four passes that went in Crabtree's direction and about the same amount to Morgan.
Unless Gore gets going and eats up chunks of yards, the 49ers are going to find it difficult to score points and move the ball down the field if Crabtree and Morgan are not being thrown to. The 49ers have to get away from the notion that if Gore is slowed down so will the 49ers offense.
How to do that is simple get the ball into the hands of the best receivers on the team! Throw the ball down the field, not short.
If defenses are going to be aggressive and crowd the box, utilize wide receiver screens, call for a reverse, and Smith is an athletic quarterback utilize his legs to keep defenses honest and not focusing just on stopping Gore.
There's still 15 games left, there's not a lot of hope for the 49ers to defeat the New Orleans Saints at home, but what will be interesting to see is how the offense plays and how the 49ers respond to the 31-6 loss to the Seahawks.
Among others things an 0-2 start isn't disastrous either. Looking at the remaining schedule the 49ers have winnable games and here's what the remaining schedule looks like after the Saints game on Monday night.
- Week 3: @ Kansas City winnable
- Week 4: @ Atlanta winnable
- Week 5: Philadelphia winnable
- Week 6: Oakland winnable
- Week 7: @ Carolina winnable
- Week 8: Denver winnable
- Week 9: Bye
- Week 10: St. Louis winnable
- Week 11: Tampa Bay winnable
- Week 12: @ Arizona loss
- Week 13: @ Green Bay loss
- Week 14: Seattle winnable
- Week 15: @ San Diego loss
- Week 16: @ St. Louis winnable
- Week 17: Arizona winnable
On the calendar for the remainder of the season there are 11 winnable games and three games the 49ers more than likely will lose. That means a record at the end of the season at 11-5, which would be good enough to win the NFC West and have the 49ers in the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
But, the success for the 49ers truly isn't with Gore, it's with the receivers. If the receivers do not become more consistent as the season progresses it could be the 2007 season all over again, a year in which the 49ers went 5-11.