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COHN: Smart Guy has tendency to outsmart himself

  • San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, left, talks with tight end Garrett Celek (81) at an NFL football training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. The 49ers are scheduled to play the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, Feb. 3. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Last Sunday, just before the 49ers' first offensive play against the Falcons, I said out loud to myself, "Colin Kaepernick is going to throw a pass to Michael Crabtree."

Sure enough, Kaepernick threw a dinky little pass to Crabtree for one yard.

The game before that against the Packers, Kaepernick threw a pass to Crabtree on the Niners' first offensive play, this one for nine yards.

Get this. In six of the 49ers' last eight games, the first offensive play was a pass. And that first pass went to Crabtree three of the past five games.

This is what you call a tendency. If I, a mere writer, can spot this tendency, you can bet defensive coordinators and head coaches around the league can spot it. You can bet the Baltimore Ravens know all about it.

It is no good to have an obvious tendency. It is even worse when the obvious tendency is a bad tendency. The tendency we're talking about is a very bad tendency.

Let's refer back to the Atlanta game. The Niners are significantly better than the Falcons, as in not even close. If Crabtree had not fumbled at the goal line and if David Akers had not missed that easy field goal, the game would have been a blowout.

But — and this is the screwy part — the 49ers fell behind 17-0 right away. Sure, the Niners came back and won and played brilliantly. But they did fall behind 17-0. There was a reason for that. The reason was offensive coordinator Greg Roman. This is not a Get-Greg-Roman column. It is more of an analytical column, an advice column.

Take a look at what Roman did at first in Atlanta — and remember Roman actually scripted these early plays, really intended to run them. Kaepernick threw the nothing pass to Crabtree for one yard. Frank Gore ran for no gain and then Kaepernick missed Vernon Davis and the 49ers went three and out. Not good when you're already trailing 7-0.

Atlanta came back and kicked a field goal and went up 10-0. How did Roman respond? On the first play of the Niners' second series, he called a pass to Randy Moss. Incomplete. Gore gained six on a run. Kaepernick got sacked. Three and out the second time in a row.


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