SANTA CLARA — When you’re watching the 49ers play the Falcons this Sunday in Atlanta, and the Niners take an early lead, and their offense looks terrific, and the Falcons look confused, and you say, “Gee, the Niners might win!” and then they blow their lead, and their offense looks terrible all of a sudden, and they end up losing by two touchdowns, you probably will ask yourself the following question:
Why does Chip Kelly’s offense work only in the first half?
Kelly amazingly let the answer slip this week at his Monday press conference. All season, he avoided this question. Throughout his franchise-record 12-game losing streak, reporters have asked him to explain why his offense looks potent in the first half and so utterly inept in the second. What is the pattern, Chip? Why does your offense gain an above-average 5.7 yards per play in the first half and a putrid 4.3 yards per play in the second? Can you give us any insight?
Until Monday, Kelly has offered zero insight. He simply repeated plays as if he was reading straight from the game book. On second-and-6, the right tackle committed a holding penalty. On third-and-16, the tight end dropped a pass. And so on and so on. As if there is no pattern. As if the second-half offense has been a victim of a series of unfortunate events. Right.
It’s obvious why Kelly filibusters: If he answers truthfully about his second-half offense, he would expose the reason the 49ers should fire him, and he doesn’t want to give anyone that ammunition. But on Monday, he did. By mistake.
A reporter reminded Kelly that Carlos Hyde had “a really good game” against the New York Jets the day before. Which was true. Hyde rushed for 193 yards and also caught a touchdown pass. He was the 49ers’ entire offense.
But for some reason, Hyde played only a little more than half the game. Was on the field for just 30 of the Niners’ 57 offensive snaps. His backup, Shaun Draughn, was on the field instead of Hyde for 27 snaps.
“Was there a conditioning aspect of it with Carlos?” the reporter asked Kelly. “Was Hyde winded?”
“Yeah,” Kelly admitted. “There were a couple times after the long runs when he took himself out. But, you understand because of the long runs. (Running backs coach Tom Rathman) wasn’t trying to get an even-steven deal. He was just trying to keep (Hyde) fresh.”
Bingo. Kelly finally incriminated himself, and didn’t even realize he had.
According to Kelly, Hyde took himself out of the game after long runs because he was too tired to sprint back to the line of scrimmage for the next play. This was entirely Kelly’s fault. Remember, the Niners don’t huddle. Kelly’s scheme is “up-tempo” — it’s the fastest offense in the NFL. Players run a play, then run back to the line of scrimmage, then run another play, then run back to the line of scrimmage over and over and over. Run run run run run.
Almost every time Hyde took himself out, the coaching staff kept him on the sideline for long stretches so he’d be “fresh” when he went back in. “Fresh” being the key word.