Is ‘spread’ why 49ers came back on Pack?

This game was similar to the 49ers’ loss to the Houston Texans a while back when they trailed by 21 points at halftime.


With Alex Smith in the shotgun formation, the 49ers made it interesting Sunday in a 30-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers, as their playoff hopes sustained a punch to the gut. But does the success in the second half provide the impetus for a dramatic overhaul of the 49ers’ offensive approach?


Probably not, as coach Mike Singletary downplayed the role of the spread in the 49ers’ comeback.


In the first half, Smith completed just 3 of 7 passes for 5 yards (yes, 5 yards). He was sacked three times for minus-12 yards.


“We came out, for whatever reason, apprehensive, cautious and kind of waiting for somebody to make a play,” Smith said. “We really didn’t get going at all until the second half.”


In the second half, Smith completed 13 of 26 passes for 222 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He was not sacked at all.


Do we owe this all to the shotgun? The 49ers ran just 17 plays in the first half, and six of them were in the shotgun formation. In the second half, the 49ers ran 28 of their 29 offensive plays from the shotgun. Frank Gore, who had five carries for 56 yards at halftime, finished with seven rushes for 59 yards.


What to guess what happened on the one play on which Smith lined up under center? He threw an interception.


Michael Crabtree, who played exclusively in the spread offense at Texas Tech, expressed a preference for running more plays out of the spread formation. He caught four passes for 77 yards, and had his first career touchdown reception.


“It kind of opened it up for all the playmakers we have,” he said. “That would be good. (But) that’s out of my range. All I can do is (run) the plays. . . . I really can do something in that spread. Coming from college, that’s all we ran.”


So what does any of this mean? Singletary said the team’s improved offense in the second half should not be attributed entirely to the 49ers’ shotgun/spread attack.


“I think that’s a combination of a number of things,” Singletary said. “Sometimes when you get behind, the defense is playing a different kind of defense. I think they relax a little bit. It’s a different coverage. I think if you’re in basic two-back set, you probably get the same result.


“But I think Alex can throw the ball, and I think he can throw the ball well. I think our offensive line did a decent job. Once we got in a rhythm, it was on. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get (our defense) off the field to find out if we could close it out.”


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In assessing Smith’s play, Singletary said, “We just have to continue to look at the things he does well. Obviously, in the first half for whatever reason . . . I still don’t think his play is where we want it to be, but I think he’s getting there.”


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The Packers have now won seven consecutive games against the 49ers at Lambeau. But this is the first time in which Brett Favre was not the quarterback at the controls.


“It’s fun to play against a team that you idolized growing up and you watched every Sunday after church,” Rodgers said.


It was particularly enjoyable for Rodgers, a native of Chico, because destroyed the 49ers’ pass defense in the first half. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns through two quarters.


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The 49ers trailed 23-3 at halftime. After the 49ers pulled to within six points on Smith’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Frank Gore with 5:56 remaining in the game, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ run game ran out the clock. Smith never got another chance.


“The defense is the bell cow,” 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. “Whatever else is going on, we have to play well. We didn’t do that.”


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The 49ers’ top two active return men were injured Sunday, as Michael Robinson sustained a right shoulder stinger in the first half and Arnaz Battle exited with a right leg strain.


Starting wide receiver Josh Morgan returned two kickoffs for 101 yards, including a 76-yarder that set up a 49ers’ touchdown. Spare safety Reggie Smith recorded three punts for 7 yards in Battle‘s absence.


Guard David Baas sustained a left ankle sprain in the second quarter and did not return. Tony Wragge replaced Baas and played the remainder of the game.


Others on the 49ers’ preliminary injury report were cornerback Tarell Brown (left knee contusion), safety Mark Roman (ribs contusion), Reggie Smith (groin), safety Marcus Hudson (back spasms) and tight end Delanie Walker (left forearm).


The game was costly to the Packers, who lost outside linebacker Aaron Kampman and cornerback Al Harris for the season with serious knee injuries, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.


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