Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers are getting the ball in Frank Gore's hands more frequently now that Mike Martz is offensive coordinator and the team is more competitive.
Two games aren't much to go on, but we have little choice heading into Week 3. As the chart shows, Gore is touching the ball on 39.3 percent of the 49ers' offensive snaps, up from 33.8 percent last season.
The chart shows all touches. Isolating for running plays only, we see Gore carrying the ball on 30.8 percent of offensive plays, up from 28.1 percent last season. He carried on 34 percent of snaps during the 2006 season, a career high. But his overall touches -- runs plus passes -- were about the same as this season.
The 49ers ran only 925 offensive plays last season, second-fewest in the league behind Buffalo (919). That worked out to 57.8 plays per game.
Much has changed for the 49ers' offense this season. The team is averaging 6.1 yards per play, up dramatically from a 4.1-yard average last season.
Martz will have more chances to call running plays if the 49ers remain competitive. But the team still hasn't stayed on the field long enough. The 49ers, despite a 10-play drive in overtime against Seattle in Week 2, are averaging 53.5 plays per game, ahead of only four teams: the Bengals, Jets, Browns and Rams.
That ratio will change if the 49ers reduce turnovers and sacks while tightening their defense, which has allowed scoring drives of 15, 15 and 18 plays this season. One thing that might not have to change: Martz's commitment to Gore.
Trend to watch: The 49ers are running the ball only 40.3 percent of the time on first down, virtually matching Martz's first-down run percentage in Detroit last season (40.2). The 49ers' figure was 41.4 percent last season and 56.6 percent when Norv Turner was offensive coordinator in 2006. Arizona, by comparison, is running on 62.9 percent of first-down plays.
Game situations will dramatically affect these numbers. The Cardinals have been leading through most of their first two games. The 49ers have trailed quite a bit. The Lions, despite dumping Martz in an effort to become more of a rushing team, are running on 32.7 percent of first downs. They've been playing from behind all season.