I realize the 49ers lost yesterday and looked rather disjointed at times on offense. Mike Singletary himself admitted that Alex Smith played poorly in the game. He threw three interceptions that did a whole lot of damage to the offense. He struggled to make plays when things broke down. We got a lot of the same problems we've seen before.
However, my question comes more to the play-calling, rather than the breakdown in execution. Even though the team was still in the playoff chase, part of the last month of games is about evaluating the players, the coaches, and everything in between in an attempt to build on what successes there were this season.
When we discuss offensive balance, it is necessary to define what kind of balance we're talking about. The simplest form is a 50/50 pass/run ratio. Of course, sometimes that's not exactly realistic. As Florida Danny and others have preached, balance is being able to run and pass when you want. Maybe you have a 2/1 pass/run ratio, but you're in a position to have great success in those instances when you do run.
Prior to the season, Mike Singletary preached about how he wanted to be able to run the ball 60% of the time. Early on it seemed like the team was going to smash the ball into the line no matter what to try and get to that ratio. Clearly that wasn't going to work. We've since seen a wild swing to the other end of the spectrum with a pass-heavy shotgun offense. Throughout all of this, it's hard to sense any sort of "balance" in the offense, however you might define it.
Which brings us to the last two games. Last Monday against Arizona, Alex Smith attempted 35 passes and Frank Gore rushed 25 times (we won't count the other rushes for now). Yesterday, Alex Smith attempted 37 passes and Frank Gore rushed 16 times. Now, in passing the ball, Alex Smith has not been all that effective at times. At other times, he's seen his wide receivers dropping passes they simply have to be catching. Either way, the execution has not been where it needs to be.
But at the same time, did we see the right kind of offensive philosophy yesterday? The team fell behind so they had to abandon the run in the fourth quarter. However, if Alex Smith and his offensive line could have been more effective in their execution, is this the kind of offensive philosophy that the team can build on heading into 2010? Alex Smith has struggled with ineffectiveness at times, but I also think he's been quite productive at times. I remain fine with the idea of him working with Jimmy Raye and Mike Johnson in the offseason to build on this.
However, just as important, we might finally be seeing Frank Gore fit into this offense. Obviously it's a day late and a dollar short for 2009, but I think that certainly provides some semblance of optimism heading into 2010.