Jim Harbaugh: “We were calling and executing the plays that we thought would get us in the end zone.”

SANTA CLARA – Jim Harbaugh was interviewed in the 49ers’ auditorium Monday afternoon. Here’s what he said about the 49ers’ red zone offense.

Q: In the past two games, seven trips to the red zone but only two touchdowns. What has been the problem? Execution? Play calling?

HARBAUGH: “There was a couple there where I really thought we were going to knock it in. The last drive, I really felt we were going to knock that in. Tamba Hali made a great play. We were at the 9 yard line. He cut the fat, skimmed the edge, went straight to the running back and got Carlos Hyde at the line of scrimmage. When you talk about pursuit, that was pursuit at the highest level.

“And then the next play call was mine. I really felt, if he was going to pursue like that, then we could run the quarterback keep around the edge. And Tamba played it different. So that hurt us on that last attempt to really get the ball into the end zone. He played it different. Kap made a spectacular effort of not losing too many yards. I got outsmarted on that one.

“And then, thought we made a really good throw and had a chance for the touchdown with Anquan. We were attacking. We were calling and executing the plays that we thought would get us in the end zone.

“Earlier, go back the first drive, we called the reverse pass. Anquan Boldin does everything great. I mean everything great. But there is a tendency when you’re throwing a reverse pass, or halfback pass, for the back or the receiver…they forget that it’s a run-pass option. I should have done a better job coaching that and alerting, “Don’t forget to run if it’s there.” I’ll do a better job of coaching that.

“Something happens to the mentality of football players when they’re in that…if they’re a receiver or a running back and they call for the halfback pass, come hell or high water they’re throwing the halfback pass. If you call a reverse pass for a receiver, come hell or high water it seems like they throw it.

“Anyway. Could have done a better job coaching there.”

Q: Michael Crabtree was open on that play, wasn’t he?

HARBAUGH: “He was. He was open for a quarterback that is into the game, loosened up, that will make that throw on the run. I don’t think he was open like he’s open for a receiver or a running back that would make that throw. That’s just something I’ve noticed back to Pee Wee football. Whether it’s Pee Wee or high school or college or even pro football, come hell or high water they try to drop it in there on a dime.

“Anyway. I take responsibility.”

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  1. What jumped off the screen yesterday… Alex got rid of the ball in a fraction of the time it takes Colin. The difference is stark.

    – Alex gets rid of the ball quickly. He marched down the field against a more talented team with nothing but quick hitters. The balls arrive before defenders have time to react. Just the right style for the red zone.

    – Colin’s greatly improved his release since college, but its still a long windup compared to most NFL QBs. His staredown + windup are not well suited to red zone passes (except run/pass options and broken play opportunities), and he takes too long to realize when someone is open.

    If Colin can quicken his ability to get the ball away, he’ll be one dangerous QB. Till then, expect red zone woes to continue.

    1. Its not all on Colin. KC runs something closer to WCO with lots of short timing routes. The offense suits Alex very well.

  2. Good question for the blog. Whats primarily wrong with the 9ers red zone O?
    Harbaugh\Roman’s play calling
    CK’s execution
    O line play
    Lack of a go to in the RZ receiver
    Other reasons?

    1. Weeks ago I mentioned bringing in a Tae Kwon Do expert to teach these receivers the art of using your hands. Hands are your weapons. Receivers need to utilize hand to hand combat down in the Red Zone. Stevie Johnson showed you the club within 5 yards. When you’re down in that confined area, and the DB is in your grill, make a move while attacking and/or countering with your hands….

    2. Coach I believe it’s a combination of all of those. I don’t think the coaches truly trust Kaep to throw down there. The windows are smaller the closer you get to the endzone. I also feel Kaep doesn’t trust the wide recievers or maybe himself. The issues with the o line only makes the situation in Kaep’s head worse. I’m all for pounding Frank Gore but teams expect us to do that so they load they box. They do not fear our passing game. Playaction & bootlegs should be our best friend in the redzone. Especially if we are going back to pounding the ball. I feel Roman has to think outside the box. We put a lot of blame on Roman, I wonder how much is it Harbaugh not trusting Kaep.

    3. Old Coach,

      Personally I believe it’s play design, play calling and execution. Every team in this league seems to use pick plays in the redzone yet I rarely see the Niners do it. I mentioned the flaw in the slant play design earlier where there is nobody else on the slant side to draw away the Safety if they are playing two high. It seems more often than not, they either try to push their way in, or try to win a one on one and predictably, the results are not great. Stevie Johnson won the one on one yesterday which is great but then later on, you have a situation where Kap has to place a throw into an extremely tight window because Boldin has no separation and the sideline approaching rapidly. There needs to be more scheme involved in the redzone and less brawn.

      1. The OL deserves some of the blame in the red zone too. Not getting much push in the running game down that end, and Kaep has been put under a fair bit of pressure in the red zone.

  3. ” I take responsibility ”
    ” I should have done a better job coaching. ”

    When ‘destiny’ fails to include a Super Bowl ring
    on February 2, 2015, …..just roll out those two quotes.
    And then walk off the dais. Niner fans will be in no mood
    for another five minutes of the slack-jawed stare, hokay?

    another suggestion for Coach Harbaw: watch some film
    of the Green Bay game: 14 – 14 – 14 – ….Two TDs in
    each of the first three quarters… That is elite football.

      1. Too bad the NFL had us playing Chicago. Oh wait, Chicago did what GB couldn’t do, beat us. I do believe we have NFC North next year so maybe GB will have 2 years to get it right.

  4. I would love to see a breakdown of plays and targets in the redzone. Ill bet it is:

    Running play Gore 30%
    Pass Crabtree 20%
    Pass Vernon 8%
    Pass S Johsnon 6%
    Pass Boldin 2%
    Pass Other 2%
    Running Play Hyde 2%
    Broken Play – kap throws it away – 30%

    1. The problem is our Redzone O is predictable and are we always targeting the best players. Boldin has the best hands on the team. BLloyd has demonstrated athleticism and ability to catch the ball in traffic. Carrier is a big target with good hands.

      How about redzone creativity?

      1. Correction -Should have read: We are NOT always targeting the best players.

        The reality is opposing D coordinators are not idiots. They have access to game film.

        They are blitzing up the middle and smothering crabtree . Kap can’t seem to find the open man in that situation.

  5. Complaints from the recent past.

    Matt Barrows:

    “Don’t ever question Trent Baalke’s decisions … when it comes to cornerbacks. After Sunday’s game, there probably aren’t many fans lamenting last year’s loss of Marcus Cooper, who gave up a 39-yard pass to Lloyd as well as Stevie Johnson’s touchdown. According to @PFF, Cooper was targeted nine times and allowed four catches for 81 yards. Remember, Baalke is the cornerback whisperer. He could find one working at the local Bennigans. If he let’s a guy go, there’s a very good reason.”

  6. My feeling regarding the RZ is lack of creativity in play calling. I’ve assisted 2 HC’s who were also O coordinators and each week they had 5 to 10 go to plays in the RZ. Vernon post is a perfect example the right play at the right time vs the right D. I place 80% of the responsibilty at the feet of Harbaugh.

    1. I see examples every week from many different teams. Look at Dalton in Cincy. He rarely throws a ball outside the numbers and when he does it’s almost always a deep throw down the sideline to Green. He is limited as a passer and yet they figure out ways to get the ball out of his hands for big plays and not just in the rz.

      We rarely see crossing patterns, or quick passes to the TE’s in the seam like the Pats make a living on. The Misdirection Seattle uses to get players wide open regularly? Nope. This offense is really line up and win the battle which is fine some of the time but not all.

    2. If CK tried to throw the Vernon Post, his slow release and long stare down would have allowed the DB more time to react.

  7. I was pleased with the two play calls on the last RZ opportunity Harbaugh describes above. The naked QB looked like a great call that was defeated, as H said, by Hali’s great play. The next play actually worked, except Kaep missed it badly. He needs to slow it down.

    1. If your referring to the boldin throw missing badly your dead wrong. Boldin should of caught that. Off his hands. He makes much more difficult catches every week. You have to catch that. Could of the throw been better yes, but considering he was on the run it was a good ball.

  8. Someone above mentioned a little blame for redzone issues should go on the o-line also. I absolutely agree. It seems when they get down there they are the ones gettin pushed backwards. Is it because they are a designed O-line? Meaning the movement on some run plays keep defenses moving and not on solid ground so that the o line has an edge. It seems when straight up pads to pads our guys aren’t as strong in goaline situations. Even on the two 3rd and shorts yesterday where KC stopped them short. Maybe they need to spread it out more often of they’re thinking of runnin it. I don’t think our o-line is strong enough for straight at you power football.

  9. Hey Jim…..a casual observation here from a long time 9ers fan…..how about you try to call plays that will enable the 49ers to score from ‘outside’ the red zone, rather than work you scheme to get close to the goal line before you go in for the kill…..other team in the NFL do it…with regularity, I might add….a win is a win, but 5 field goals against the likes of Seattle ain’t gonna make it…….

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