Despite weapons, 49ers grounded in attack

Frank Gore (Getty)

The 49ers added Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins to their receiving corps, but the numbers show they are still a run-first team.

With the offensive firepower the San Francisco 49ers have been showing off against the NFC North in resounding wins over Green Bay and Detroit, the assumption is that the Niners are moving away from being a run-first offense.

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.


  • Erin Henderson (concussion) was the only Viking player who didn't take part in Wednesday's practice. Center John Sullivan was limited in practice with an ankle injury.

  • Only three 49ers were listed on their injury report. RB Brandon Jacobs remained sidelined with a lingering knee problem. WR Ted Ginn was limited with an ankle injury and punter Andy Lee was a full participant, but listed with a hand injury.

  • When the Vikings play the Detroit Lions in two weeks, the Lions will be without Drayton Florence. Florence, one of the team's starting cornerbacks, suffered a broken arm that required surgery. He was placed on injured reserve, but was designated as a player who could return under new league rules. Under the new rule, Florence could return to practice after Week 8 of the season and potentially resume playing in Week 10 – ironically when the Lions come to the Metrodome to play the Vikings for the second time in the 2012 season.

  • Almost 70 players got workouts Tuesday with teams around the NFL. Among them were former Vikings Xavier Adibi, who got a workout with the Bengals; Patrick Brown, who worked out with the Raiders; Chris Carr, who got the once-over from the Chargers; and Remi Ayodele, who worked out for the Dolphins.

  • The Vikings released a statement Wednesday concerning the death of NFL Films president Steve Sabol, saying, "The Minnesota Vikings football family is saddened by the passing of Steve Sabol and join the sports world in mourning the loss. Generations of NFL fans were able to get closer to their football heroes because of the groundbreaking of the Sabols and NFL Films. Their tireless documenting of all angles of this great game ensures that the NFL legends will live on forever."

    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.

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