I just wrapped up watching the game and I came across some information that we can probably use going forward in the continued assessment of Shaun Hill. As Deion repeatedly pointed out, he was facing a rather decrepit Bengals defense that helped make him look good. Deion and Marshall Faulk repeatedly emphasized that a team throwing a straight man-to-man coverage at an inexperienced QB is playing right into his hands. Opposing defenses need to mix up their coverages to make the youngster have to think a bit more. Shaun Hill was able to make things happen in large part by taking whatever the Bengals gave him. The Buccaneers defense will provide a much stiffer challenge.
Hill obviously passed quite a bit more in the first half as the 49ers built their 14-10 halftime lead. In the first touchdown drive, Hill actually completed five straight passes sandwiched between a Gore and Norris run. After a 3 and out on the team's third drive, Hill was 5 of 6 on the second touchdown drive and the only incompletion was a spike to stop the clock.
In the second half, Hill was 7 of 10 with a pair of sacks (since those were pass plays). If we don't count the last drive (4 Gore runs and 3 kneel downs), the 49ers ran the ball 18 times compared to 12 passing plays (including those sacks). Considering the team was leading, throughout the 2nd half, that would seem appropriate, particularly since Gore was running over the Bengals at will much of the time.
The team settled for a pair of field goals on two of those drives, but both times the team attempted a pass on the play preceding the Nedney field goal. The first time Hill overthrew DJack by only a yard or so on a nice pattern into the end zone. A little more touch and that's 6 points. The next field goal was preceded by a sack. More importantly, in my opinion, is that those two drives in the third quarter were a combined 12 minutes and 54 seconds. The next drive resulted in the turnover on downs that has certainly drawn discussion. I still would kick the field goal, and if I do run a play, it's to one of Battle, Davis or Walker. Nonetheless, that drived consumed another 5:03, meaning the 49ers first 3 drives of the second half consumed 17 minutes and 57 seconds. Cincinnati's first three second half drives (which also happened to be their only ones), consumed 9:49 and resulted in 3 points.
I think that without a doubt, the offensive game plan was just about perfect (aside from the 4th down call). The first half saw the team pass the ball 18 times (including the spike) and run the ball 13 times, the second half had 12 passes and 18 passes resulting a total of 30 passes and 31 runs.
I went through and figured out how far the pass went from Hill to the receiver and then how much YAC beyond that. 16 of Hill's completions were completed in under 10 yards, while 5 were double digits, capping off with a 19 yard pass to The Disease. Technically it was an 18 yard touchdown, but Davis was a yard into the end zone, which I thought was important to note.
Since we know he can make the dump off passes, I wanted to finish by looking at the five passes that went at least 10 yards in the air (in order of appearance). My descriptions of the plays are not going to be perfect since the camera doesn't always catch the whole route.
1st and 10, SF 24
Motion setup: The Disease and Norris go in motion from left to right.
Formation: I with fullback offset to right
Play: Quasi-play action, Davis lines up on o-line, runs up 10 yards and then corner route to sideline. Caught relatively in stride 12 yards down the field and tackled 3 yards later.
Result: 1st and 10, gain of 12 on the pass, 3 on the YAC
2nd and 5, SF 43
Motion Setup: The Disease and Norris go in motion from right to left
Formation: 2-receiver, single back formation.
Play: Jackson seemed to run 10 yards up and then across to the middle of the field. DJack had to dive down but caught it relatively easily, otherwise.
Result: 1st and 10, gain of 15 yards, 0 YAC.
3rd and 1, SF 32
Motion Setup: None
Formation: Shotgun with Gore to Hill's left
Play: DJack runs 18 yards up and quickly turns around leaving Leon Hall a yard behind him.
Result: 1st and 10, gain of 18 yards on the pass, 2 on the YAC.
1st and 10, Opp 48
Motion Setup: Davis goes from left to right, staying on the line.
Formation: I-formation with Norris offset to the right
Play: DJack ran up about 15 yards and cut back down back to the pass.
Result: 1st and 10, gain of 12 yards on the pass, 0 on the YAC.
3rd and 3, Opp 18
Motion Setup: None
Formation: Shotgun with Gore to Hill's right; Delanie Walker lined up in right side slot; The Disease lined up on right side of offensive line.
Play: Gore ran a go-pattern towards end zone, turned around in stride and caught it a yard deep in the end zone.
Result: TOUCHDOWN, gain of 19 yards, 0 on the YAC.
So first of all, all five "long" completions took place in the first half. Of course that makes sense with a young QB and a second half lead. The first half saw him doing more to make things happen with his arm, while the second half saw him managing the game. Many fans probably wanted to see him keep opening things up in the second half, but given the situation I think it was played as well as could be expected.
In spite of this performance, I'll repeat Deion's refrain: It was just the Bengals. I am certainly much more excited about the Bucs coming to town next weekend. However, that excitement is more just to see if Shaun Hill can keep up his performance. Also, can the offensive line bully the Bucs off the snap and can the receivers continue to hold onto passes like they did Saturday? While the Falcons had no chance in their matchup with Tampa Bay, the Bucs defense made things as easy as could be for the Bucs offense. The Bucs had 285 yards of total offense and still put up 37 points. That is due mostly to the 4 turnovers, and of course the first ever kickoff return for a touchdown in franchise history.
If Shaun Hill performs against the Buccaneers like he did against Cincinnati, this becomes a winnable game. The Bucs do not have a super-explosive offense and so if the 49ers can avoid turning the ball over, an upset is a possibility. Shaun Hill will certainly be facing the biggest test to date.