The 49ers’ run game is about quantity, not quality, 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said. That’s why he said it’s difficult to draw any conclusions about the run game from the 49ers’ loss to the Colts. In that game, Frank Gore had just 13 rushing attempts.
I asked Raye today about the spread offense and the fact that the run game has not been consistently successful this season. The 49ers are not going to become a “spread” team. But Raye said there might be more of those elements added to the team’s offense as the season progresses.
Here are some of Raye’s answers to my questions about the state of the 49ers’ offense:
Q: With the personnel you have and what you spent time in the offseason working on, are you comfortable going with the spread offense and shotgun for large portions of the game?
Raye: “No. No. Not at all. We’re the same bunch that four weeks ago we were talking about how we’re going to play. We haven’t changed that. If that was in fact true and we were going to take this deal and become a shotgun, wide-open and throw the ball 48 or 52 times a game, then we’d have to do an awful lot of changing. We can mix that, which we have and intend to do, but as a steady diet . . . I think the confusion is that people are looking at the extremities of what they perceive to be the talent at the extremities and making a judgment that is not founded or grounded at all. And the quarterback has played six quarters today, and people are now starting to refer to his history in that offense in college, which is five years removed. Right now I don’t delight in that prospect. Going forward, if it manifests itself and is something that will help us, we’ll gravitate toward that. As of now, the answer to that question is no.”
Q: You talked about four weeks ago. Four weeks ago, Alex Smith wasn’t the quarterback and Michael Crabtree wasn’t here. Do you lean more that way than you did four weeks ago? I’m not saying rip up the playbook, but use more of those elements?
Raye: “Yes, we would think of that a little more. It’s difficult because we’re still, in certain things, trying to get No. 15 (Crabtree) to line up in the right place. There are more elements to it than just the physical body of the people we have. So there’s a lot of things that go into that before we say, ‘We’re going to switch gears and go in another direction.’ We can gravitate toward that and make due because of what we see out of his natural ability, but the nuances and the fine-tuning still takes some time. And then the exposure of the offensive line . . . “
Q: Exposure of the offensive line?
Raye: “If you do that it takes away the threat of the run. So if you’re trying to block Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis on every down and the left tackle is hurt on the first play, you got to be . . . you kind of have to re-evaluate what you’re trying to do.”
Q: Is the offense running how you want it to right now?
Raye: “In some areas, yes. Basically, offensively, what we’d like to do as we strive to achieve balance, is to be able to score points. And we haven’t done that in abundance. We’ve been efficient in certain areas. We do a very good job with the stuff we have in the red zone. We haven’t had the consistency in the run or the pass that we’d like, but the pass part of it appeared to be some better with the change and the addition of the people that we have. So I guess the answer is yes and no.
Q: The pass game is coming along, so what do you think is the main area of the run game that just has not clicked like you thought it would?
Raye: “The efficiency of 4-yard runs on first down. That coupled with the fact that we get an overloaded box. When we’re in a 21 personnel group (two backs, one tight end, two receivers), we see more gap-controled eight-man add-on fronts than we’d normally like to see. When we started back, we were more interested in quantity of run than quality because we were trying to control the clock and put it together to the point that we had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter. And somewhere along the way, in the last 2 ½ weeks, that’s kind of gotten lost.”
Q: Why haven’t you been getting those 4 yards on first down?
Raye: “Part of it . . . if you want to go back chronologically . . . part of it is we changed the right side of the line. We lost the back (Gore) for a while. There are all kinds of symptoms to why it is. The basic answer is the lack of continuity and familiarity approach with people are comfortable playing with each other together more than anything else.”
Q: So are the pieces still there?
Raye: “It’s not the same pieces, but we have people in place. We lost Tony Pashos and a week later we lost Joe Staley. There are some differences. I’m not alibi-ing or making excuses but it is different than the way we started in
* * *