The San Francisco 49ers vividly remember the pain of the 2012 NFL Playoffs, but winning a Super Bowl this year will erase most of them. But if their offensive coordinator Greg Roman doesn’t execute, the 49ers will endure another tough postseason exit.
Ever since Colin Kaepernick snatched the reins at quarterback, Roman has become pass-happy and abandoned Frank Gore and the running game, which is supposed to be the base of the run-first offense. With
Kaepernick’s ceiling is vastly higher than Smith’s, which is what Roman senses. In games in which the 49ers are trailing, though, Roman completely discards his running game.
Against the Seahawks, a game that San Francisco lost 42-13, Kaepernick threw 36 times, ran and got sacked on designed passes while Gore ran the ball only six times. In fact, Kaepernick ran more than Gore did.
The 49ers are third in total defense, and they allow an average of 17.1 points per game. They will be facing a prominent offense headed by a superstar quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, but the Packers have a horrible offensive line. They allowed 51 sacks in the regular season, which won’t bode them well with Aldon Smith lining up on the other side.
So, it’s safe to assume that Green Bay won’t be dumping 40 points on the 49ers. Therefore, Roman needs to stick with what got San Francisco here: Frank Gore and the running game.
Kaepernick forces a lot of passes, and sometimes, his deep shots don’t materialize into anything positive. In the playoffs, opponents will know how to throw Kaepernick off and contain the deep pass, so it will be crucial to keep the defense off-balance.
How will the 49ers do that? By mixing up runs and passes.
Obviously, that’s easier said than done because it’s tough to call plays in the NFL. But again, Roman can’t put too much on Kaepernick’s hands given his inexperience. He won’t necessarily get overwhelmed, but if the 49ers fall behind he might try to force the issue.
If the 49ers are losing, Roman needs to keep find equilibrium. Gore is a powerful, hard runner who set the franchise record for rushing touchdowns against the Cardinals and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry this year. That’s a good amount of yardage, to be sure. And by doing this, they would open up down the field shots for Kaepernick.
San Francisco has offensive firepower and lots of talent on defense, and it’s definitely looking like they will be able to contain Green Bay’s offense (the Packers scored 15 points on offense against SF in Week 1). So, they will need to keep the attack balanced and hand the ball to the guy with six 1,000-yard seasons and only one lost fumble this year.
Don’t get me wrong, Kaepernick is a very talented quarterback who can definitely bring the Lombardi Trophy back to San Francisco in 2013, but he can’t do it all. The 49ers have a ridiculously thin receiving corps after seeing Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham suffer season ending injuries, meaning Kaepernick doesn’t have a surplus of options. Thus, working runs into the mix will be vital.
Roman needs to understand how valuable Gore is and how Kaepernick needs some help from his running back, especially considering that Green Bay has the 17th best run defense and the 11th best pass defense. Simply, they aren’t that good defensively. Gore ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries (seven yards per carry) against Green Bay in Week 1, and he can definitely repeat that effort in the playoffs. That is, if Roman provides him with that opportunity.