The 49ers largely ditched the three-receiver offense they used so extensively against Carolina a week earlier. This game marked an about-face. San Francisco used three tight ends outside a short-yardage context, which is unusual. Frank Gore was the star of the show.
The 49ers used two or more tight ends on nearly 60 percent of snaps, up from 20 percent against the Panthers even though both games were close and starting tight end Vernon Davis missed much of the Denver game. Nate Byham seems to fare well as a blocking tight end.
Smith put up excellent numbers throwing the ball from traditional personnel groups. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 67 yards, one touchdown and a 146.1 rating from "12" personnel (one back, two tight ends). He completed his only pass from 22 personnel for a 30-yard gain to Josh Morgan. A running threat set up the pass in this game, even without play-action fakes (as when Smith hit Michael Crabtree for a touchdown).
Smith never attempted a first-down pass from 11 personnel, a pass-oriented grouping. He threw only from 12 and 21 personnel in these situations. Again, nothing fancy.
Smith attempted only five passes on third down. His third-down numbers from 11 personnel: 1-of-3, 12 yards, 46.5 rating.
The 49ers' four longest pass plays came from different personnel groupings. Delanie Walker caught a 38-yarder from 21 personnel on first down. Morgan's 30-yarder came from 22 personnel on third-and-1. Crabtree's 28-yard touchdown came from 12 personnel on second-and-5. Walker's 27-yard reception cane from 11 personnel on second-and-20.
The 49ers had 39 running plays, not counting kneel-downs or scrambles. They gained yardage on 33 of these carries. Four went for no gain. Two lost a total of 3 yards. Not bad.
The first chart breaks down the 49ers' personnel use on first down against every opponent this season, based on my charting. They used 11 personnel on a season-low 4.5 percent of first-down snaps. Some of the disparity stems from the fact that the 49ers weren't forced into a catch-up mode in this game. But it was still telling.
2010 San Francisco 49ers Personnel: First-down percentages
The second chart shows the 49ers' running and passing production by personnel group against the Broncos. For example, the team averaged 7.0 yards per carry on eight rushes with two first downs from 12 personnel. The 49ers averaged 9.6 yards per pass attempt on seven attempts with three first downs and a 146.1 rating from this group.
2010 San Francisco 49ers Personnel: Week 8 only
I'll be taking similar looks at the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals' games from Week 8 (having already done so for Seattle's game). Just not sure how quickly I can get them done. I should be in position to do some season-to-date stuff once every team has played eight games.