Greg Roman’s mistake on the 49ers’ final play against the Bears

Before we move on to Week 3, one more thing about Week 2.

I question Greg Roman’s play call on the 49ers’ final play against the Bears. The 49ers were at the Bears’ 17 yard line with 1:17 left and it was fourth-and-9. Roman called a play where Michael Crabtree ran a post route and ended up in the end zone and Anquan Boldin ran a hitch-and-go double move and ended up in the end zone.

Both end zone targets were “If Passes” for Colin Kaepernick — IF the receiver makes a great catch, the pass works out.

Roman didn’t have to call a play featuring two If passes in that situation. More than a minute remained on the clock and it was fourth-and-9. Call a play where Boldin or Crabtree runs a route that breaks at the first down marker — the 8 yard line — give Kaepernick an easier throw and keep the drive going.

This article has 49 Comments

  1. Yeah, Grant, Greg Roman is the weak link. It’s been apparent since the Super Bowl against the Ravens.

    The Niners have never been able to beat a good defensive team during his tenure. Sure, beat the Packers, beat the Falcons; can’t do anything against the Giants, Ravens, or Seahawks. Imagine a Bill Walsh offense coming out flat in a big game.

    Harbaugh needs to fire Roman, a la Cam Cameron.

    1. >>The Niners have never been able to beat a good defensive team during his tenure

      Just last year’s NFL’s #2 defense, Carolina, in their house. In the playoffs.

      JFC, the idocy here.

  2. Kap put it on his hands. Hit Crab in both hands w/an audible thud. Pro football. Catch those and have a chance to win.

  3. Moving forward, the 49ers need to limit the mistakes. That starts with Colin Kaepernick. I would recommend looking for Boldin in those situations over Mr. Crabs, who has proven unable to make the play recently. Roman was not the reason they lost. Poor execution and lack of discipline were the culprits….

    1. I agree with Razor. The majority of 49er players had less than stellar games. The officiating was a problem and the coaches did not make proper adjustments in the second half. It took all those factors together for a lesser team (Chicago) to beat a better one. A different result probably would have happened if anyone of those before mentioned variables had turned out different.

      Grant it is possible that if they ran the route you suggested they might have ended up with a first down. But the reason it didn’t work had nothing to do with the route rather Craps stutter which threw off the timing of the pass and made it a much more difficult catch. But perhaps the safer play might have been the wiser choice.

      1. Come on Willtalk. Lets call the loss to the Bears for what it really was, the 3 INT’S and lost fumble. Putting it on the staff and the rest of the team is honorable of you but all those things happen to every team each Sunday. Turning the ball over gives teams life, momentum and hope, even when down by 3 possessions/scores.
        The one constant in the NFL that will not win you any games is turnovers.

        1. FDM- On another of Grants articles I stated that in the Dallas ‘ catch game” Joe Montana threw three interceptions yet the team’s overall positive play made up for those mistakes against a team far better than the Bears. While the turnovers were key plays the fact that unlike the Dallas there were really no exceptional plays made by the rest of the team to compensate. Except for Gore’s run and that was negated by a bad call.

          Since you stated the rest of the team it is implying that those interceptions lie totally at the feet of Kaep. I believe I posted my thoughts on that matter all ready. We need to also consider that some of those were because of great defensive plays by the defense. That was not a ball control fumble. Look at it. The defender hit the ball squarely with his helmet from the side. No-one hangs on to that ball. One of the interceptions was because two receivers were in the same area and another although not a good throw was because the defender took it out of Crabs hands.

          There are always variables involved in any play. They should be considered if we want to really be objective instead of just using them them for debating in favor of the argument we wish to make.

          It seems that’s what most people on athletic sites really tend to do. Use stats and superficial analysis to promote opinions rather than using games as a tool to come to an objective conclusion. Many of you might understand the dynamics of individual plays but tend to fall short when putting those plays into a larger context. You are doing the same that some of you accuse Kaep of doing in football. You are therefor making a one read analysis rather than going though series of analytical progressions. Just as in as in football some people just are capable of viewing more of the field then others.

  4. Well said Grant. The play calling often goes wrong at crunch time. With over a minute on the clock, going for a first down rather than TD was the smart thing (the percentage thing) to do.

    I wonder whether Roman has pre-set plans for circumstances like a 4th and 9 at the end of the game, or whether he plays things by ear. Bill Walsh believed it was impossible to make rational decisions when the pressure was on, so he had plans for every possible contingency. Therefore the pressure never got to him; he’d already decided what to do in every possible situation in his office, when thinking with a clear mind, before the game.

    Perhaps Roman should read Walsh’s book on leadership and follow his advice. It would prevent screw ups with the play calling and hopefully help Kap prepare mentally too.

    1. Good point. I wonder if they ever practiced that play in that situation. Have to practice situational football.

      1. The last three games the 49er offense has done much better in the first half. The difference between the halves is stark.

        Who is the architect of the late game failings. The early part of the game has more scripted, game planned plays. I’m assuming the OC has the biggest hand in that component.

        Then modifications are made as the game unfolds. I’ve never been part of a coaching staff, but I’m assuming the HC (especially offensive HCs like Harbaugh) have an increased role late in games.

        One thing is clear… whoever is making the initial game plan is doing great. Whoever is managing things late is blowing it.

        Grant/Anyone… do you know who has the heaviest play input late in games… Roman or Harbaugh.

        1. [Sorry for spacing question marks above]

          I will never know how hard to come down on Roman until I know how large Harbaugh’s fingerprints are on late game play calling.

          If/When Roman leaves for another franchise will I know for sure. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see his early game productivity extended to all qtrs.

  5. Before saying anyone made a mistake you may want to learn the difference between a skinny post and a dig route.

    Crabtree ran a 12 yard dig route on this play and was open.

    1. I haven’t rewatched the play so I can’t speak to what route he ran but I also don’t know how you would confuse a dig for a post route if that is indeed the case. If so I’d guess it was just a simple blunder of using the wrong word.

    2. “Before saying anyone made a mistake you may want to learn the difference between a skinny post and a dig route.”

      Be careful Jack. This place is only reserved for pointing out CK’s mistakes.

      1. You got that right Ricardo. It’s to the point that comments simply with a differing point of view are being deleted.

    3. Yep, looked like a dig route to me. And Crabtree didn’t need to work it closer to the end zone as he did at the end of that route. If he’d maintained his depth he wouldn’t have given the DB much of a shot to make a play on the ball.

      1. It looks to me like Crabtree thought Kaepernick was going to take off so he started to adjust his route.

        Would have been a good question for one of the beat guys to ask.

        1. Ha!

          You’re right , it did look like Kaep was about to take off to his right when he stepped up in the pocket, then decided to stop and make the throw to Crabtree. If Kaep had taken off to his right, the correct decision for Crab would have been to break off his route and double back the other way to provide a potential target, or offer a block if Kaep went for the run. In the end he broke off his route too soon.

  6. Michael Crabtree’s post route on the 49ers’ final play:
    Makes his break at the 7:
    …here his is at the 6:
    …the 5:
    …the 4:
    …the 3:
    …the 2:
    …the 1:
    …end zone:

    1. That’s a dig route.

      A skinny post has a cut at about a 25 degree angle. It’s called a skinny post because the cut is at a smaller angle than a typical post route which is at about a 45 degree and is designed as more of a vertical route.

      On the dig route the receiver makes a post cut then a second cut to take him parallel to the line of scrimmage. This is what Crabtree ran initially and why the upfield step looks awkward.

      1. On a post the receiver continues to run after making the cut, on the dig the receiver has turned and is either coming back towards the QB or has stopped completely and is facing him.

          1. This one is good too. It includes the skinny post. Using this route tree the route that Crabtree ran is a called a square in. With my team we called it a dig.

            Either way, the route was not any type of post.

            1. I like this description: “The dig (or square-in) is a deep, inside breaking cut with the receiver (or tight end) pressing up the field, sinking his hips and breaking back to the middle of the field between a depth of 12 and 15 yards. The key for the receiver is creating separation at the top of the stem by pinning the defensive back to the outside.”

              I was wrong about the wr stopping.

              1. If that was a post route it was a very shallow post route. As Kaep is stepping into the throw Crabtree has finished his break and is running almost parallel to the LOS. It isn’t until Kaep is releasing the ball that Crabtree makes a hitch step and changes the angle of his pattern to more of a 45 degree angle towards the end zone. And it is that move that gave the DB a chance to come underneath and make the catch more difficult.

              2. He makes his break on the outside of the big number 10 and enters the end zone before he hits the hash mark.

              3. The DB had inside leverage. At around the 10 yard Crabtree shades his route to the inside in order to get inside the defender. He had to or the route was blown.

                When he reaches around the 6 yard line he makes a break that takes him almost parallel to the LOS along the 5 yard line. This take him from outside the numbers to about 1/4 of the way between the numbers and the inside hash marks on the right side of the field.

                In the meantime, Kaep steps up in the pocket to avoid pressure as Crab is making his break at around the 5-6 yard line. After stepping up he takes a half step to his right as Crab is passing the numbers from right to left. Over Crab’s next two steps he will run parallel to the LOS while Kaep spots him, steadies himself and begins his throwing motion.

                Just as Kaep is getting into the forward motion of his throw, Crab is ever so slightly changing his line off the 5 yard line – this step takes him to around the 4 yard line and about half way between the numbers and the inside hash marks.

                Just as the ball is released, Crab changes course again with a hitch step that takes him from around the 4 yard line to the 2 yard line in one step. His angle changed from shallow to deep in that one step, and it robbed him of some forward momentum. It also allowed the DB to get in front of him. It is actually the angle he took in this hitch step, and the momentum he lost, that meant he now had to stretch for Kaep’s pass. If he continued his route along the 4-5 yard line he would have been in a good position to catch the ball.

                The route he ran was a dig route, which for whatever reason he broke stride from just as the ball was being thrown.

              4. That’s wrong. He ran a post. He never ran parallel to the 5 yard line. Chris Collinsworth and 49ers’ fans wanted Crabtree to run a square in, but the route was a post.

              5. What I described, regardless of what route you want to call it, is as accurate and detailed as I can be. He runs parallel to the LOS, or close enough to it, for about 3 to 4 steps, from just outside the numbers to around half way between the numbers and inside hash marks. Over the course of that distance he went from the 5-6 yard line (his break) to around the 4 yard line (just after Kaep releases the ball). If it was a post, it was an extremely shallow post.

              6. No, he never runs parallel. It was a post. Call it a shallow post if you want, but don’t call it a square in because that would be wrong.

              7. Have a look through the photos you posted again. In particular, look at the ones you said were between the 6 yard line and at the 3 yard line.

                – The one at the 6 is his break point.
                – The one at the 5 is his first step after his break.
                – The one at the 4 is between his 2nd and 3rd steps after his break and he is only just over the 5 yard line, not at the 4.
                – The one at the 3 is between his 3rd and 4th steps after his break, and he is now actually at the 4 yard line, not the 3. In this step he was starting to increase his angle a bit.

                The next step is his hitch step and takes him from the 4 yard line to the 2 yard line. That is where he broke his route for some reason. I think it may have been caused by reacting to Kaep’s half step to the right just before he started his throwing motion.

              8. He broke at the seven. He kept giving ground because it was a post. Flattening the route for a step or two doesn’t make it a square in.

  7. Anybody ever heard that being “right” isn’t everything? Unless Grant et. al. can extract an answer as to scheme and playcalling from Harbaugh/Roman about the final play of the Bears game, there is no way to ever determine who is “right.” Don’t you guys have anything else you want to weigh in on?

    1. You missed last season’s “do the Niners run a 4-3 or 3-4 defense?” jagfest. It’s (fortunately) too late to weigh in on that discussion but it went on for column after column after column.

      1. Yeah, Rib
        One time last Spring I made a little tease about ’43 Under’ on the blog and like a horde of locusts it resurrected for 6-8 hours of debate.

  8. “{pOIYTRWQGreg Roman wasn’t supposed to be the OC. David Shaw B.MAsdf’:lkAASQDWRTYUIOP[]

  9. I read a lot of niner articles, and I’ve actually never commented on one. But I have to say, this blog or whatever the hell you call it has always been the worst content that I come across. It’s ill-informed, shock value, click baity, nonsense. Everyone please stop giving this site hits, just stop reading it and it’ll go away.

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