With Jim Harbaugh as the San Francisco 49ers head coach now in his third season, one of the staple characteristics of the team has been its ability to run the football on offense, with Frank Gore being the lead running back. So far in the 2013 season, the 49ers have been unable to run the football in the same way as Gore has failed to rush for over 100 yards total, and the running backs have been unable to have clear running lanes.
Gore had only 44 yards on 21 carries in the win over the Green Bay Packers, and it only got worse in the loss against the Seattle Seahawks as he only managed 16 yards rushing on nine carries. While some might assume that Gore is hitting the wall and showing signs of decline, it is premature to to consider this given that neither Gore or backup running back Kendall Hunter have been able to run the ball effectively.
The fact of the matter is that in two games, the 49ers as a team have rushed for 190 yards. While that might not seem so bad, the numbers do not tell the whole story, as anyone who has watched the 49ers rushing attack will tell you. What is recognized as one of the best offensive lines in the league has not been able to show the ability to prevent opposition defenders from getting into the backfield to stop Gore and or Hunter.
The conventional wisdom in the past has been that teams establish the run on offense in order to open up their passing attack. But given the 49ers’ struggles in running the ball so far in the season, they should flip the script. Against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, the 49ers should seriously consider using the pass to help set up the run.
Doing so would prevent the Colts’ defense from stacking the box and being able to focus on crashing the offensive line to stop the run. An effective passing attack would loosen the Colts’ defense and help open up running lanes for Gore and Hunter, which have not been there so far this season.
At their core as an offense, the 49ers are a team who want to run the football and control the line of scrimmage. In the first two games, they have been far from being able to do so. Against the Colts on Sunday, they can get back to being that effective and punishing running team, and they can do so by using the pass to set up the run.