Offensive Game Plan
For the San Francisco 49ers to defeat the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the Niners will have to run the ball effectively.
Their running backs won’t necessarily need to rip off multiple long gains, but the 49ers will need to run the ball successfully enough to be respected by the Panthers’ defense — particularly their linebacking corps:
If the 49ers are able to consistently gain positive yardage on the ground, the Panther linebackers will be forced to bite harder on quarterback Brian Hoyer’s play-action fakes.
This will open up the middle of the field for the 49ers’ receivers, including top wide receiver Pierre Garçon:
The more explosive the 49ers’ passing game becomes, the better the Niners will be able to run the ball. Contrary to popular belief, Shanahan’s 2016 Atlanta Falcons were actually a pass-first team, with their passing game setting up their running game.
Shanahan will attempt to do the same in San Francisco, but to do so, he will first need sufficient blocking by his offensive line. If the 49ers can hold off Carolina’s defensive line, Shanahan will attack the Panther linebackers and secondary by alternating play-action passes and outside-zone runs:
With more defenders attacking the line of scrimmage to defend against the run, Shanahan will counter-attack through the air:
In a perfect Shanahan world, play-action passes and positive rushes on early downs would lead to first downs or manageable subsequent downs; unfortunately we know that this isn’t always the case.
When Hoyer is forced into an obvious passing situation without the benefit of play action, 49ers receivers will need to beat the man across from them, and make the difficult catch when required:
In addition to positive play from their offensive line, the 49ers will depend on their stable of running backs to run hard and fight for extra yardage:
Then, when the defense least expects it, look for Shanahan to dial up the deep ball:
In Shanahan’s offense, the pass relies on the run, which relies on the pass.
The 49ers will need both aspects of their offense working in unison for their offense to thrive against the Panthers’ strong defense on Sunday.