The San Francisco 49ers offense struggled with consistency on Sunday, but there were some bright spots in the passing game. Anquan Boldin had the biggest impact, but Bruce Miller quietly put together a strong performance. Miller finished the game with 3 receptions for 40 yards, and all three receptions set the team up in useful field position.
In the first quarter, Miller was lined up offset in the pistol formation on 2nd and 7. He ran a route into the flat, and turned it upfield for a 20-yard gain. In the second quarter, Miller was lined up out wide to the left in a five-receiver formation on 2nd and 13. He ran a quick 8-yard route and turned around. He caught the ball, and turned upfield to gain four more yards, setting up a 3rd and 1. Finally, in the third quarter, Miller lined up out wide to the right in another five-receiver formation on 2nd and 15. He ran up four yards and stopped. He caught the ball and picked up four more yards to set up 3rd and 7. It was his least "effective" catch, but it still gained over half the yards needed to get to the first down.
Miller finished the game with 40 snaps, which made up nearly 66 percent of total offensive snaps. He has had two games with more snaps, but this game marked the highest percentage of offensive snaps he has played this season. When the 49ers mix Bruce MIller into the passing attack, they seemingly find solid success. They are not going to have huge game-breaking plays (most of the time), but Miller frequently gains important yards on short catch and run plays.
I don't know how frequently Miller has been an option, but we do know the team does not use him quite s frequently this year as in the past. They have used more 3+ wide receiver formations, and that has resulted in fewer opportunities for Miller. We saw so much of him on Sunday because the 49ers were short in the tight end department. Vance McDonald was inactive with a hip injury, and Derek Carrier suffered a foot injury. That opened the door for Miller to make an impact in the passing game.
My question is why do we not see more of this. A full-season review would be necessary to get a better handle on this, but it is one of the questions that has come up with this offense. People like the big, flashy game-breaking plays, but the shorter stuff has been huge for the 49ers. And given their lack of a true game-breaking deep threat, that short game is where they could seemingly find more success. Vernon Davis's struggles probably contribute to the problems, but even still, this game showed that Miller can still be an effective weapon in the passing game.
Did this maybe remind the offensive coaching staff about what Miller can do? Or will we look back on this after the season as a one-game anomaly?