Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The 49ers' commitment to Frank Gore remained strong even though the running back finished the 30-21 defeat to New England with only 16 touches.
This was a close game through much of the first three quarters. Priorities change when a team is trailing late in a game. For that reason, I excluded the fourth quarter in analyzing how offensive coordinator Mike Martz used Gore against the Patriots.
I broke up the game into quarters and downs. Martz indeed made Gore the focal point of the offense on first and second downs. Among the findings:
The 49ers ran eight first-down plays in the first quarter. Gore carried four times on these plays. The other four plays featured an interception, two touchdown passes -- one of them to Gore -- and an incomplete pass. That works out to five touches for Gore in eight first-down plays in the first quarter.
The 49ers ran two first-down plays in the second quarter. Gore carried both times, gaining 2 and 5 yards.
The 49ers ran two first-down plays in the third quarter. Gore carried once and lost a yard. Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan scrambled for 8 yards on the other play.
Gore touched the ball three times on six second-down plays in the first half.
Martz called passes on both second-down plays in the third quarter. This included the ill-advised play with four receivers and an empty backfield, producing an interception on second-and-2.
Watching the same teams every week is making a huge difference in my ability to chart offensive personnel use during games.
Those who download the 49ers file for Week 5 will see how the team fared running and passing from each personnel group. The file also includes a play-by-play sheet sortable by quarter, drive number, down, distance, yard-line, personnel, play type, ball carrier, yards gained/lost and other criteria. Another column includes notes I took during the game.
The 49ers are generally going to alternate between three core groupings. They tend to be most effective with one running back (Gore), two receivers and two tight ends. Sometimes they replace a tight end with a third receiver. The 49ers replace the other tight end with a fourth receiver if things get desperate or if Martz wants to get aggressive.
San Francisco also sprinkles in a few plays with two backs, two receivers and a tight end. We'll see them replace one of those receivers for a second tight end on occasion. And every once in a while we'll see two running backs with three wide receivers.
Note: I'm remaining the Bay Area today and will report from 49ers headquarters later. I'll look at the other games involving NFC West teams upon consulting my DVR beginning Tuesday.