After the Seahawks game, I expressed some hope that Jim Harbaugh would open up the playbook; that he would dust the cobwebs off (from the playbook, not his truck); that he would take some WD-40 to the hinges and reach into the depth of that offensive genius just dripping from the back cover. Or, at least, the offensive genius we all decided he had this offseason.
I don't have any reason to doubt his supposed genius. He's a guru: that's what everybody says and I believe it. I mean, he got this franchise off to a 2-1 start for the first time since the music died. The last time the Niners started this well, it was 1856 and Buchanan's election overshadowed the start to the season.
So, I do except that the 49ers' playbook will unfold with a certain teleological end in sight - one that is an offensive explosion. The Niners should be able to pass with any team, run with any team, and out-trick every team. I think the Niners can do it. I think they have the talent. I think they have the coach.
After such a pitiful game and offensive showing, do I think the offense is opening up? Do I think that this week showed something different in its altogether pedestrian 13 points? Follow me after the jump to find out.
Well, that's the short answer, so let me expand on it a bit. But first, to the negatives!
The offensive line has been horrid and every bit offensive. They are permeable to the extreme. Imagine that your cell walls just thought that osmosis was super cool and let every single water droplet in. That's what Alex Smith feels like. When ribosomes have to help Smith up after every passing play, it's going to be a long game.
I don't have solutions for this, to be honest. I'm not a coach. I think we have a very talented o-line. We have a group of guys that can be great someday. I also think that we have the coaching to make them great. So, what's the problem? Well, I know this is obnoxious, but I think it's the lockout. O-lines need time to gel and this one hasn't had that time. Nor have they had the time to really get to know their more complex protection packages.
And a quick word about Alex Smith's performance. These are the types of games I wish he can produce for the rest of the year. If he can't be great and a franchise QB, then at least he can be a safe and somewhat efficient QB for this year. He still checks down a lot (see above commentary about o-line) and he still has his odd foot fetish (there were a few way underthrown balls), but at least he isn't losing the games for us.
I should to say something about Frank Gore here, but I just can't bring myself to do it yet. Not yet. He is still too awesome of a player for me to admit that seeing Hunter jump in a bit was refreshing. I love that man. /wipes away a solitary, but manly, tear.
Fix these few things and I think this game looks a lot different. If the line can solidify, I think Smith and Gore have much better games, and we put up at least 21 points - if not more.
So no - I don't think we saw as stunted of play calling as we saw the first two weeks. The pass across the field to a wide open Vernon Davis was a thing of absolute beauty, and portions of the passing game are coming together quite nicely. We aired it out 30 times for 201 yards. If Braylon Edwards plays this game, I think that that number increases by about 50 yards - especially if Crabtree plays healthy too.
The running game also saw some nice calls, albeit mainly in the fourth quarter when the more speedy Hunter jumped in, but the point still stands. I don't think what we saw on Sunday was the most innovative offense a team put on the field this last week. Not by any means. But, I don't think it was as stifled as we saw against the Seahawks.
And, for that, I am happy. Keep opening up the playbook, Harbaugh. I know the lockout was tough, but we got yo back. We can be patient. Anyway, you're going to need to this week. I hear the Eagles have a couple of good corners...