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49ers vs. Broncos: O-Line Run Blocking Breakdown

The 49ers rushed for 143 yards in Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos in London.  Still, while watching the game in real-time it seemed that the run game was up and down.  Frank Gore had a few long runs that helped his total rushing yards climb to 118 on the day, but he was stuffed short on a few occasions as well...as were his fellow running backs.

I re-watched most of the offensive plays and also rewound (rewinded?) plays of particular interest.  In this piece I'll focus on some run plays and what I saw from the offensive line.  I don't know that I'll get a chance to break down pass blocking in another post, but I'll briefly say it was near flawless. 

Back on-topic though we focus on the run game and I give my thoughts on some tendencies in both scheme and individuals.  The brain-dump, after the jump (that rhymed, totally unintentional)

I immediately noticed that the O-Line didn't seem to block with direction, rather each player manned up on a defender and shoved him.  This caused no defined hole in the middle and it's no surprise why edge rushes were more effective at times.

Anthony Davis beat Frank Gore down the field on his first big gain on the second possession.  Had he actually hit someone in the process, it might have been a bigger gain but boy is he fast for a large man.

Another inside run and again, Davis needs to learn how to hit someone.  He pancakes a guy sometimes then runs around like a chicken with his head cut off looking for someone else to hit in space.

There are generally good seal blocks on the outside in the run-game...but Gore has to bounce the runs out when the middle is clogged...as it seems to always be (see first paragraph).

Gore has amazing leg-drive.  He looks like one of those Strongest Man guys pulling a bus behind them...except he's about a foot off the ground and his legs look like a locomotive.

I like the motion plays where the TE comes into the backfield...usually that TE and one of the Guards get to the LB level and that actually creates a lane for Gore to run inside.  Norris in the backfield usually just bangs into someone with no apparent winner and sometimes that defender get's a hand on Gore.

Another play in the 2nd quarter 6:30 left, where Byham motioned left and Chilo pulled, they both gave Gore a nice lane to run through for a 6 yard gain.

Staley and Baas pulled beautifully on the toss sweep in the 2nd quarter for the 21 yard gain.  Then, curiously, Gore just ran out of bounds...I still don't know why.

Dixon's run in the 2nd quarter with 5:25 left to play...Josh Morgan had a poor block on the seal and his man forced Dixon further outside, into the waiting arms of the tackler.  Sure, Dixon could have hit the middle, but a diving penetrator knifed through the line, which was the first thing that forced him outside to begin with.

Another trap play...a shotgun draw to Gore on 2nd down with 4:35 left in the first half.  Pulling guards are seemingly the best blocking scheme we have in the run game.

When Moran Norris is in the game as a blocking FB on a run play...it's rarely, if ever successful.  He just takes up space, but gives Gore nowhere to go.

Hey, a pulling guard!  Chilo seemed to do most of this and then he'd push the end out and create a hole for Gore to run through...this time 3rd quarter, 13:55 left to play.  Next play was 3rd and inches with, you guessed it, Chilo pulling and a first down.

Worth mentioning: Frank Gore was the first player in the NFL to reach 1,000 yards from scrimmage in the 2010 season.

Can we please audible out of the draw on 3rd and long when there are like seven rushers coming? About 11:00 left in the 3rd quarter Denver brought seven to the LOS and most of them rushed.  There was a comeback route on the right side wide open for a first down had it been audibled to a hot route.  The defense was overloaded on the right.

That block Troy Smith threw on the Gore play where he reversed field...he threw his shoulder into a defensive lineman, knocking the guy on his back...and meanwhile Smith was still standing when it was all said and done.  That play will earn him mad respect amongst his offensive teammates.

Iupati needs to play lower (broken record?).  He engages and is strong, but he needs to drive his man off the line and open up a hole.  Someone needs to tell him "take THIS guy and push him OVER THERE!"

Just saw another instance of A.Davis looking for someone to hit.  He can't wander around, he has to just start hitting, double-team, hit someone!

So granted those were my thoughts in a "taking notes" format, here is the summary:

The offensive line does not do an effective job of drive blocking.  It's funny that we're talking about this again in 2010 after smileyman and I (and others) mentioned this same fact during last season. The problem is a combination of a few things:

First, Iupati keeps getting high and standing his man up at the line in a game of line-of-scrimmage-chicken.  This seems to be the theme of the guys blocking defensive lineman (those staying at the first level).  What I want from him is to PUSH his man, punch him in the chest, shove him out of the way, keep his hands moving and his legs driving.  Did I sound like Mike Solari?  I hope he sounds like me.

Second, Anthony Davis is quick to arrive at the second level but rarely finds anyone to hit.  He could even help double a player already blocked, or just get in front of the runner and form a cow-catcher...what he usually does is wander around aimlessly.

Once again in 2010 the trap play (pulling guard/multiple pulling OL's) is the best running play as it get's to the second level more effectively and creates a real lane for the runner.  Sometimes this is with a guard and sometimes a motioning TE is also involved (Byham is very good at this scheme).  It works, use it.

Lastly I think a combination of Frank Gore bouncing outside, just a little, perhaps off tackle...and also some actual called outside runs would benefit a line that seems to like to clog the middle more than open holes therein.  Guys, get on that, thanks.