The San Francisco 49ers had a lot of success running the ball in Week 1, and the team was able to keep things fairly simple. The team used a lot of tight end packages, using three tight ends on 33 of their 66 offensive plays. The team found great success running from those sets, but also had some success passing the ball. When it became clear the Vikings could not consistently stop the 49ers offense in the second half, it was an easy call to stick with it.
On Thursday, offensive coordinator Geep Chryst talked about the use of tight ends. He talked about how the team was finding success, and thus did not need to dip into other parts of the playbook. The team talked about simplifying the playbook this offseason, but I imagine they left plenty off the table in their Week 1 win. Michael Wilhoite mentioned how the 49ers defense has plenty still to reveal, and I have to think the same holds true for the offense.
The Steelers will have their own counters this week, and the key will be how Geep Chryst and this offense adjust to new looks. We saw a nice first step on Monday, now we get to see how they answer the bell in round 2.
"Hi, before we get going, I just want to say that you can't help but watch the Steelers for me and think about how great the organization was to my brother. They share a facility between [University of Pittsburgh] Pitt and the Steelers and I just wanted to mention that. We're watching a lot of tape, but they're a great organization. They really treated my brother well when he was there and I wanted to mention that before we got going. Any questions?"
It seemed like G/T Alex Boone really had an excellent game. Do you agree with that and is he well suited, particularly, for zone runs?
"You know, first off, he's on the left side. He'd been on the right side for most of his career here, but we knew he had left tackle talent. We knew he could play well on the left side. And throughout the offseason and training camp, we saw there was a nice chemistry between [T] Joe [Staley] and Booner. So, I thought that was true. He played with a lot of energy on Monday night."
Week 1 can be a little weird, especially with a new coaching staff and a new scheme because there's no tape on you. Now that there is a games worth of tape on you and you ran so many three tight end sets, how do you adjust moving forward, perhaps with defenses loading the box?
"Yeah, I mean, you always think about trying to put all of your personnel in a good position. And I think that the way we started the game, not just with that personnel group but having success out of it, maybe you didn't have to get to other parts, other corners of the call-sheet because we were having success with that. So, moving forward, it's a long season and each week is a different test. We're trying to be sound. Whatever personnel group happens to be out there and we happened to start in 13 and we happened to have some success but moving forward, we know that not only will the people who are part of that personnel group will be always tested, whatever personnel is out there. It's a long season and eventually defenses have a way of challenging you."
On that first drive, you had a very unique formation. It looked like you had four wide receivers almost in the stands they were so spread out. I don't know if you could share where that--?
"It's just a different way, there was so much of the condensed sets, the close splits, that we just wanted to have a variety of formation, and that was one way to have variety. I looked up there and I said wow, they really took a wide split. You normally use the markings on the field for, you know, our point of reference. But, they were definitely outside of the three-point arc there."
Were the splits correct?
"Yeah, they were. Again, you're just trying to get into different formations at the start of the game and knowing that we were going to be in some, tighter, condensed splits. So, on the particular play, we just expanded it."
At what point during the game did you realize that RB Carlos Hyde was going to have a big game and do you communicate with him at all, just to know how he's feeling?
"You know, we kind of, the last time we were here we we're talking about how important the Denver week was for us. I kind of sensed that Carlos was going to have a good week in the Denver, really, the whole practices, not just the Saturday night of the Denver game. So, we all know that the third preseason game is kind of a barometer. But, we didn't have to play him for a half or play him for the full game to know that all of the offseason work that he's put in, since April, and where he's at, you know, you have confidence every day and then you kind of figure well, let's see where he's at. And so, it wasn't surprising, but it was great to see."
Assuming that RB Reggie Bush isn't able to play, does RB Jarryd Hayne remain as your backup running back?
"Sure, and you know, we'll see where Reggie is in terms of, I haven't seen him today. But, you want to have enough of your offense that if one player goes down, whoever that player is, you can still move forward. And so, during the course of the game, everyone saw the first punt with Jarryd, but we thought offensively he kind of settled down just like any rookie and by the second half he was kind of executing and being himself and we didn't really back off of anything on the call-sheet simply because it was Jarryd out there."
How much has he progressed as far as just the recognition of blitzes and how to pick them up?
"Sure. Like we said earlier, football has vernacular. There's no language barrier which was important, but there's also vernacular in what you call certain blitzes, what you call certain fronts, what you call the positions. And, that's probably been remarkable really, his learning curve, because he does not have a college system that he's coming from. He's coming from a totally different sport. So, we just felt like he was just another 49er that was in there and was going to execute whatever it is that we were going to call and I think that's a real compliment to him."
If Reggie can't play, does that mean that RB Mike Davis makes his--?
"He's the most natural guy, right? And again, we'll just have to wait and see how it goes. It is a short week. I was encouraged that after the game and then the following day, Reggie had a upbeat, positive attitude about things and that's the way he's been since he's come in too. So, you just kind of keep, with the short week, installing the game plan, working on the film prep and then that kind of comes along as the week comes along. And that feels like the regular season when you've got guys who are working their way back through things and I'm sure that'll be true for the whole course of a season, you're going to have guys that get dinged and we'll just see where they're at at the end of the week."
Some of us were rather skeptical about your offensive line. It seemed to work. They played quite well. Did, I mean, was there some element of the unknown?
"They didn't seem too skeptical, which is a good thing. They felt confident. I think that, especially with Joe being the leader that he is, he's got a lot of personality. For those of you that aren't around Joe, he's not shy and neither is Booner either. So, I kind of figured that there'd be some good things there. But, you've got to have good things happen at the start of the game too so that you can build off of whatever confidence you bring into the game."
New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski scored three touchdowns against the Steelers in Week 1. How much of an asset is having TE Vernon Davis, being the tight end that he can and basically duplicate that performance?
"Sure. And you know, Pittsburgh's had about 10 days to study us and then correct whatever things that they had on their opening game too. So, just because it might have happened, that's normally the first thing that gets fixed by an opposing staff. So, I'm sure that they are going to have a well-prepared team. It's their home opener, so some of the emotion maybe that we experienced, we're going to have to be on the other side of that and we have to play with some poise and execution too because, I think, they're going to be ready to go."
Jarryd shared that he had a similar bad first moment in a big Rugby game. He's 27. Does a guy like that who's been a pro athlete before maybe bounce back from something like that?
"Yeah. And like I said, we didn't really change anything on the call-sheet or on the sideline. [Running backs coach] Tom's [Rathman] been working with all the running backs and we just kind of said OK he's the next guy in and even, if you noticed, even a couple times in the first half when Carlos came for a breather to the sidelines, we had no problem putting the next man in there. But, I think it's pretty unique. He's not just a rookie. He's a rookie that's playing a new sport completely. So, he has to rely upon whatever athletic background that he did bring. There was in particular one nice run where he kind of broke a couple of tackles and stayed in through hole as opposed to always bouncing outside. Sometimes rookies want to bounce around the pile instead of going through the pile and he did a nice job of kind of following his blocking. And I thought once he showed that, that his feet were back on the ground and you kind of have to get over it. As an athlete you have to get over striking out or shooting an air ball or whatever it is that you have to get over and obviously he's moved on and we're not really thinking too much about that."
In regards to Carlos, what kind of physicality do you think he's going to expect knowing that in Week 2 the Steelers have a ton of film on him now?
"Yeah. And again, it's a great question because he played with so much energy and it's a short week. But, you have to go back to the first week in April when all of the conditioning and the groundwork was laid for the physical portion of how he's come into the season. And so, then the season becomes that test to see OK what kind of shape am I really in and what kind of shape can I stay in. But, right now he seems to be bouncing around pretty good. It is a short week so we'll be smart. But, at the end of the day I think he's chomping at the bit and raring to go play another game."
Along those same lines, one of his characteristics as a runner is he gets a lot of yards after contact. I know you're up in the booth, but do you sense that emotionally the other guys watching him fight for those extra yards that that gives a boost to the O-Line?
"Yeah. There was a contagious part of the game where there was confidence in the run game. You also saw not just him finishing the play, but maybe blockers trying to finish on the play. And I thought that consistency of effort and production you now know that that's what you want to replicate every series, every play within every series. But, every week's a whole new challenge. It's a different defense. They'll have a different plan of attack and we've got to solve that problem. That's why we're working real hard to try to prep for this next game."
Did your jaw drop when he made that spin move or did you watch that a few times?
"I was actually looking at the clock because it was under a minute and we had three timeouts. So, we were kind of in the situational-mode. Should we take the timeout if he was tackled for the first down? You're kind of moving onto the clinical part of the game, but that's exactly what I was doing. I was looking at the scoreboard to see how much time would be left if he got tackled. I said oh this was better, he didn't get tackled. So, that's exactly what happened."