<
>

Separating fact from fiction on 49ers

This seems like a good time to separate fact from fiction in assessing how the 49ers' offense conducted itself against the Jaguars in Week 12.

Fact: The 49ers put the game in quarterback Alex Smith's hands. Smith attempted 29 passes in the first half. He scrambled on another pass play. The team had only eight running plays in the first half.

Fiction: Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was much more aggressive than usual when he called for a pass on third-and-goal from the 3. In reality, the team has now passed 10 times in 13 chances on third-and-3, which is a passing down all the way. The team had thrown passes on both its previous third-and-goal plays from the 3 this season.

Fact: The 49ers largely phased out fullback Moran Norris in favor of more wide-open personnel. Indeed, the team ran only one snap from its base offense featuring two backs, two receivers and one tight end. That matched a season low set against the Falcons, when the 49ers fell behind early and abandoned their game plan.

Fiction: Raye was much more aggressive than usual when he called for a downfield pass to Vernon Davis on fourth-and-1. In reality, the 49ers have gone for it six times on fourth-and-1 this season. They have thrown four of the six times. Before Sunday, they had completed passes for gains of 25, 18 and 8 yards on fourth-and-1. The decision was consistent with Raye's established mentality.

Fact: Smith seems comfortable from the shotgun formation. The 49ers used the shotgun most of the time against the Jaguars. Overall, Smith has a 95.8 rating from the formation.

Fiction: The 49ers have been more likely to use the shotgun with Smith at quarterback. They might be trending in that direction. In reality, though, former starter Shaun Hill has attempted a higher percentage of his 2009 passes from the shotgun, 49.6 percent to 47.4 percent.

Fact: Tight end Delanie Walker served as a third receiver much of the game. The team went with one back, two wide receivers and two tight ends on a season-high 61 percent of its snaps. Walker's versatility allows the 49ers to take a wide-open approach even when the personnel grouping features two tight ends.

Fiction: The 49ers are running a spread offense. Yes, Walker is versatile and Smith is lining up in the shotgun quite a bit. In reality, though, spread teams flood the field with three or more true wide receivers. The 49ers used three true wide receivers only twice on first or second down Sunday, by my count. They used three-receiver personnel a dozen times on third down, which was typical. The team has yet to use four true wide receivers at a time this season. "Spread" is a relative term in this case.

Going for it

The 49ers have gone for it six times on fourth-and-1 this season, converting five of them. They've called passes on four of the plays, converting every time for an average of more than 20 yards per pass.