Before you buy into that, may we caution not so fast, my friend.
In their Week 1 win against the Packers, the 49ers ran 67 offensive plays. Of those, the team used two tight ends on more than half of their plays. Vernon Davis was on the field for 65 of the 67 plays (97 percent) and Delanie Walker was on the field for 34 plays (51 percent). Running back Frank Gore was on the field for 50 plays (75 percent), while backup Kendall Hunter was on the field for 18 plays. In only two plays did San Francisco go with an empty backfield.
By comparison, none of the wide receivers was on the field for more than 70 percent of the offensive plays. Michael Crabtree led the way with 45 plays (67 percent), followed by Mario Manningham (29 plays, 43 percent), Randy Moss (21 plays, 31 percent) and Kyle Williams (16 plays, 24 percent).
Against the Lions, the 49ers offense ran 63 plays. Of those, Davis was on the field for 54 plays (86 percent) and Walker was on the field for 35 plays (56 percent). They had a running back on the field for every play – 45 plays for Gore (71 percent) and 18 for Hunter (29 percent).
The receiver distribution was again markedly lower than the use of running backs and tight ends. Crabtree was on the field for 45 plays (71 percent), followed by Manningham (38 plays, 60 percent), Williams (22 plays, 35 percent) and Moss (16 plays, 25 percent).
Of their 123 offensive plays, the 49ers have dropped to pass 64 times (57 passes, seven sacks) and run the ball 59 times – providing a pass-run distribution of 52 percent to 48 percent. By comparison, the Vikings – also considered to be a run-first team – have also run 123 offensive plays. Of those, 68 have been pass plays (62 passes, six sacks) and 55 have been running plays – a 55 percent-45 percent split.
The 49ers are currently being viewed as more of a passing team than the Vikings, but the numbers speak otherwise. As much as the 49ers have made a concerted effort to improve their passing offense – adding Moss and Manningham in free agency and using their first-round draft pick on wide receiver A.J. Jenkins – they aren't that far removed from the team that went to the NFC Championship Game last year – being known as a power running team that only passed when it had to. The names and faces may have changed, but the theme remains the same. If the Niners are going to beat you, they're going to set the table by beating you on the ground, not through the air.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.