SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 30: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers drops back to pass against the Cleveland Browns in the second quarter of an NFL football game at Candlestick Park on October 30, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
The San Francisco 49ers face a Washington Redskins defense this Sunday that has been quite solid against the pass, but has struggled against the rush. Football Outsiders ranks the Redskins 20th against the run and the Redskins are 21st in yards per attempt. It is safe to say the 49ers will look to continue building on their rushing attack. And given the Redskins weakness on rushes to left end and left tackle, look left.
I mention all this because some of the discussion in a pair of conference calls today was about Alex Smith and how he was playing within the offense and preventing turnovers. DeAngelo Hall (audio, transcript)and Mike Shanahan (audio, transcript) chatted with the media, with Hall focusing in more on the proverbial "dink and dunk" of the 49ers offense.
This follows a Steve Young segment on KNBR last week in which he proclaimed that the 49ers would need to open up the offense further if they wanted to advance deep into January:
You can't turn the switch on in December. It's now November 1st essentially. So it's time, and the unfortunate thing is, if you don't do that you start to hold your team back. I think they've done what they had to do to get here to this place, but to your point it's now time to take the chances, put people in a tough spot and hopefully they can respond. If you don't, and you just want to say, "Hey, this year, the 49ers, we are the team that plays great defense, doesn't lose the game, and we win 17-10." Well then you'll not only lose a couple games along the way that you shouldn't, but you'll be gone very, very quickly in January.
Young did indicate that he thinks the offense will improve as the weeks progress. Each week brings more practice reps and more film of what they've done to date. Given the shortened preparation process before the season, these practices become all the more important.
The question is how/if/when the offense will open up. Adam Snyder estimated that the 49ers have only used 40-50% of the playbook thus far. The play-calling sometimes comes into question, but given that the team is winning, the current play-calling would seem to be fine as is. And yet, if the team is going to need to open things up even more, when will see it?
This week the 49ers are in a position where it makes sense to continue running behind this power rushing offense. I suppose they could open things up if they get a sizable lead, but that sort of defeats the purpose of things. Is this something the 49ers work on once they actually have a playoff spot officially locked up? Or can they ride a power rushing attack and dominant defense and special teams to glory?