The San Francisco 49ers rank last in the league with 27.7 pass attempts per game. This is because the 9-1 49ers have been playing with the lead in many of their games, utilizing the running game to run out the clock.
In the last two games Alex Smith has been asked to air it out more than usual, throwing 30 passes against the New York Giants and 38 passes against the Arizona Cardinals. Look for Smith's attempts per game to continue to increase as the season progresses.
The 49ers want to prove that they are not a one-dimensional offense. Expect them to continue to air it out more so that opposing defenses cannot key on just one aspect of the 49ers' offense. This will increase Smith's confidence with his receivers, rest Gore's legs and make it harder for defenses to game plan against the 49ers.
Michael Crabtree is emerging as Smith's go-to receiver. He has five or more receptions in nine games played (he missed the Dallas Cowboys game with an injury). Crabtree's continued production will result in defenses paying more attention to him, which should benefit Vernon Davis who typically draws the most attention from opposing secondaries.
This, combined with the solid play from Delanie Walker and the physical presence of Braylon Edwards, could create nightmares for opposing defenses. Also look for Kyle Williams to see more action as he has proved to be a better receiver than Ted Ginn Jr.
The 49ers will let Smith throw the ball more as the season progresses which will force opposing defenses to respect the pass and in turn open up running lanes for Gore and company. Making the offense more balanced will benefit them come playoff time.