Mike Sando had a post earlier today on the 49ers improvement in the red zone over the past few games (he broke it down by last four, and last nine as well). After watching Saturday's last-minute heroics, which were obviously red-zone scoring plays for touchdowns, it's easy to see why we want to revisit the once-poor red zone efficiency numbers.
Sando pointed out that over the last four games, the 49ers are 8-13 scoring TD's inside the opponent's 20-yard line, good for a 61.5% efficiency stat. Meanwhile the Giants are only 8-17 for a measly 47.1% touchdowns in the "zone".
Looking at the last nine games of the season (the "second-half", if you will) we see that a shift in play-calls occurred. The 49ers began calling more passing plays in the red zone, opposite of the approach employed earlier in the season.
Part of this could be due to Frank Gore and all of his "nicks". Or perhaps it's due to the offense evolving and learning what it really does best in specific situations. Maybe the players have had time to get chemistry and thus passes are becoming more effective when they count.
An aspect not mentioned by Sando regarding Saturday's two late touchdowns is this: QB Coach Geep Chryst called all of the plays on the final two drives...drives that resulted in touchdowns when the team needed quick scores.
Those two drives inflate the percentage a bit: if you take them away you're left with 6-11 and a 54.5% efficiency rating in the red zone. Still, two-minute drives are part of the game and most teams have multiple opportunities to score in these situations.
It's also been mentioned that the 49ers realize they can't settle for FG's in the post-season, especially if they're watching their opponent move the ball all over the field (worse: on big plays, ugh...).
One last thought I have is this: If Greg Roman ever does take a job as a head coach in the NFL, my bet is that Chryst would succeed him as the OC. I've felt that way ever since Roman's name came up for both NFL and college jobs. At this point, based on this small sample size and even though I wouldn't want to lose coach "G-Ro"...I don't think that'd be a very big drop-off.