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49ers final scoring drive after further review

As we all know, up until that final touchdown drive, the 49ers offense had struggled rather mightily.  There were a couple nice passes to Bruce and Morgan, but other than that there wasn't much of anything all day long.  So then why did the offense suddenly turn around on that final scoring drive to win the game?  Well, I recorded the game on my DVR so I thought I'd take a look back at that drive and consider the reasons for the late success.

Hill struggled much of the game, but he managed to put something together on that 4th quarter touchdown drive.  He was 9/13 for 72 yards and a touchdown on that drive, so something had to have changed from the rest of the game.  A review of the drive makes it pretty obvious.  I've pasted the drive play-by-play after the jump so feel free to check that out if you want.

The biggest difference on the drive was the implementation of the passing game.  That's not shocking, but for folks who missed the game, I wanted to point it out.  Excluding a penalty, the team ran 16 plays and only two of them were rushes.  Of those 14 passing plays, 6 came out of the shotgun.

What stood out to me was the team's performance against the blitz.  It did not appear as though the Arizona Cardinals were running a prevent defense on this drive.  With plenty of time on the clock and a small lead, that's perfectly reasonable of course.  On the drive, the Cardinals sent at least one extra blitzer on 9 of the 14 passing plays.  It's notable that the 49ers responded well in all but one of those plays.  That success is due to a combination of the offensive play-calling and the offensive line performance.  Both areas received an intense amount of (deserved) criticism throughout the game, before and after this single drive.

The very first play of the drive saw the Cardinals send two guys on the right side and Hill throw it into the ground in front of Isaac Bruce.  Not pretty.  However, after that the 49ers did everything right against the blitz.  This meant that either the offensive line picked up the blitzers and gave Hill plenty of time, or the 49ers utilized quick pass plays to prevent sacks.  Four times the team used a quick pass and four times the offensive line (and occasionally running backs) picked up the blitz and kept it at bay.

Obviously this was only one drive.  The team still did not provide any semblance of a running game, as much as they wanted to bang their heads against the wall to prove.  The 49ers cannot average .8 yards a carry (or even Gore's 1.4) and win on a continual basis.  It just doesn't work that way.  The answer to that is of course further developing the passing game.  The team certainly can't expect to pass 14 out of every 16 plays as well.  It's all about the balance.  A 60/40 run ratio would be nice, but sometimes other aspects of the game are successful.

I guess we'll have to wait until Sunday to see if the offense mixes things up a little more earlier in the game, or if they continue to bang their head against the walls for 3+ quarters.

San Francisco 49ers at 14:52 SFO ARI
1st and 10 at SF 20 (14:52) (Shotgun) S.Hill pass incomplete short right to I.Bruce [K.Dansby].    
2nd and 10 at SF 20 (14:50) S.Hill pass short left to I.Bruce to SF 26 for 6 yards (A.Wilson).    
3rd and 4 at SF 26 (14:11) (Shotgun) S.Hill pass short middle to V.Davis to SF 45 for 19 yards (R.Johnson).    
1st and 10 at SF 45 (13:29) S.Hill pass incomplete deep right to I.Bruce (D.Rodgers-Cromartie).    
2nd and 10 at SF 45 (13:23) (Shotgun) S.Hill pass short right to V.Davis to 50 for 5 yards (K.Dansby).    
3rd and 5 at 50 (12:42) (Shotgun) S.Hill pass short left to I.Bruce to ARZ 45 for 5 yards (K.Dansby).    
1st and 10 at ARZ 45 (11:59) S.Hill pass incomplete short left to V.Davis.    
2nd and 10 at ARZ 45 (11:52) F.Gore left tackle to ARZ 42 for 3 yards (G.Hayes).    
3rd and 7 at ARZ 42 (11:07) (Shotgun) S.Hill pass short left to I.Bruce to ARZ 29 for 13 yards (B.McFadden). ARZ 22 injured on the    
Timeout at 10:45. SFO ARI
1st and 10 at ARZ 29 (10:37) S.Hill pass short right to A.Battle to ARZ 19 for 10 yards (K.Dansby).    
1st and 10 at ARZ 19 (9:55) S.Hill pass short left to V.Davis to ARZ 20 for -1 yards (C.Okeafor).    
2nd and 11 at ARZ 20 (9:10) S.Hill pass short left to V.Davis to ARZ 8 for 12 yards (C.Okeafor).    
1st and 8 at ARZ 8 (8:30) F.Gore up the middle to ARZ 7 for 1 yard (C.Campbell).    
2nd and 7 at ARZ 7 (7:39) S.Hill pass incomplete short right to D.Walker (A.Wilson).    
  PENALTY on ARZ-D.Dockett, Defensive Offside, 4 yards, enforced at ARZ 7 - No Play.    
2nd and 3 at ARZ 3 (7:34) S.Hill pass incomplete short left to I.Bruce (K.Dansby).    
  Timeout #2 by SF at 07:29.    
3rd and 3 at ARZ 3 (7:29) (Shotgun) S.Hill pass short right to F.Gore for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN. 19 16
  J.Nedney extra point is GOOD, Center-B.Jennings, Holder-A.Lee. 20 16