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.
The Falcons scored a touchdown early in the second quarter and that made it 17-0. The 49ers were behind a whopping 17 points, a place they didn't have to be.
In the meantime, something happened in the Roman brain. Either he came to his senses or someone knocked sense into his coconut. He began the Niners' third possession with four consecutive Gore runs. "Run the ball, Greg."
The 49ers' offense took off from there. Why? Because the run sets up everything the 49ers do on offense — play-action, the option-read, the entire passing game, everything. Run is what the 49ers do best and it is the basis of everything else. Got that?
One assumes Roman knows this. But he has a fatal flaw. Oh, that's overstating it. Let's just say he has what I'll call The Smart-Guy Tendency. In Smart-Guy Tendency, the smart guy — Roman — tries to outthink the opposing coaches. They are expecting a run — with very good reason, because it works — so The Smart Guy calls a pass. Understand, pass is the wrong call given what the Niners do, but Smart Guy calls it to show how smart he is.