NFC West: Rashean Mathis

Around the NFC West: Flexible 49ers

November, 30, 2009
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee credits 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye for an aggressive game plan against the Jaguars. Barrows: "Raye called 29 passes in the first half -- the most Alex Smith ever had attempted in one half of play -- and all but eight of them were out of the shotgun position. He mostly ignored the fullback, who to this point has been a harbinger of one-yard losses, for a second tight end. And it worked. The 49ers were aggressive, ambitious and creative, and for all intents and purposes they put the game out of reach by halftime. You have to credit Raye for his best game plan on the season." The 49ers ran only one snap from their base offense. I'll have more on that in the not-too-distant future.

Also from Barrows: Raye's pass call on third-and-3 produced a touchdown. Barrows: "Raye has been stubbornly insistent this season that the best place to find three yards is on the ground and into the teeth of the opponent's defense. But Raye was full of surprises in Sunday's 20-3 win. Instead of handing off to Coffee, quarterback Alex Smith wheeled around to his left and saw an easy touchdown." This was the first time all season the 49ers had shown two backs and three tight ends on a third-and-3 play. Overall, the 49ers have passed 10 times on 13 third-and-3 plays this season, including on both previous third-and-goal plays from the 3 (against Arizona and Chicago). Yes, Raye made the right call, but I have no idea why the Jaguars didn't expect a pass play in that situation.

More from Barrows: The NFL's worst pass rush couldn't penetrate what had been a struggling 49ers offensive line.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says players lobbied 49ers coach Mike Singletary to shake up things on offense. Singletary: "The absolute best thing that happened this week was I saw leadership on the offensive side of the ball in terms of, 'Coach, this is what I think would work. This is what I think we need. Can we do this? Can we do more spread?' To me, that's leadership. That conversation could go to the parking lot. It could go in the bathroom. It could go to their homes. But it came to us. It came to me. Jimmy [Raye] and I sat down and talked about it, the offensive staff, the entire team, about what we need to do going forward. I think we just have to find our balance each and every week depending on what that team does." The plan was absolutely appropriate against a Jaguars team playing without a pass rush and without top cornerback Rashean Mathis.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers recorded six sacks in a half for the second time since sacks became an official stat in 1982.

More from Maiocco: Vernon Davis' six-catch day leads an aggressive offense.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Smith grew up against the Jaguars. The touchdown pass to Frank Gore stood out. Smith: "As the big guys rumbled toward him, Smith lobbed the ball over their heads, lobbed that sucker to Frank Gore waiting in the end zone, where he made a beautiful catch for the touchdown. And you understood Smith had faked out the Jaguars defenders, drawn them to him. He showed the ultimate poise running right and holding the ball and letting them think he was baffled. He had been a quarterback."

Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group says Singletary is wiser than his words.

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle says Singletary threw out everything he'd said previously in putting together the plan against Jacksonville.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle compares Singletary to a vegetarian who decides to eat whatever is handy, even if it goes against established rules.

Also from Crumpacker: Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson provided well-timed sacks against David Garrard.

More from Crumpacker: Davis suffered from the dropsies, but still produced at a high level.

Personnel report: Cardinals diversified

September, 24, 2009
Cardinals in Week 2
Plays Pct. Runs YPC Passes YPA
0TE 24 43.6 4 5.8 20 9.6
1TE 14 25.5 9 4.6 5 7.8
2TE 16 29.1 10 5.7 6 6.7
3TE 1 1.8 1 1.0 0 0.0
Totals 55 100 24 5.1 31 8.7

Posted by's Mike Sando

The Cardinals ran plays against the Jaguars in Week 2 from each of the seven primary personnel groups I track when charting a game. They even used all seven on first down.

That is unusual and possibly attributable to a several things:
  • Kurt Warner and the offense can handle the additional burden. For example, using four wide receivers invites more defensive backs onto the field, giving defenses an opportunity to get more creative with their coverages. Warner nonetheless averaged 11.2 yards per attempt with seven first downs on 13 pass attempts from the Cardinals' four-receiver package. Top-notch Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis made Larry Fitzgerald work, but Warner spread the ball around. How many times he targeted players from four-receiver personnel: Jerheme Urban 4, Anquan Boldin 3, Fitzgerald 2, Steve Breaston 2, Dan Kreider 1, Tim Hightower 1.
  • The Cardinals like their young running backs. NFL teams rarely pair two running backs with three wide receivers on the same play. The combination allows an offense to run the ball behind a fullback if defenses focus too much on defending the receivers. Most teams would rather have a tight end on the field over a fullback for the additional options in the passing game, but the Cardinals are without their most versatile tight end, Ben Patrick, for the first four games. Arizona has used two backs with three receivers on more than 10 percent of snaps this season, up from less than 5 percent in 2008. Against the Jaguars, the Cardinals paired Jason Wright and Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells and Dan Kreider, Wells and Wright and even one snap with two halfbacks, Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling, in packages with three wide receivers. The Cardinals had success, too, throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Wright from this group. They also fooled linebacker Daryl Smith with misdirection to the right, freeing Hightower for a 17-yard gain on an inside handoff.

The chart shows the Cardinals' production depending on how many tight ends were on the field (not counting quarterback kneel-down plays). They went without a tight end nine times in 28 first-down plays. They used two tight ends 12 times on first down. They mixed it up, in other words.

Note: Download full personnel report with play-by-play notes here

A few other Cardinals-related observations after taking a closer look at their game in Week 2:

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