49ers' offense not experiencing a Catch-22

Three and Out: Crabtree update, Brooks doesn't want Lewis' money

49ers' offense not experiencing a Catch-22
November 22, 2013, 7:30 am
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The 49ers routinely found themselves in second-and-long situations after using “22” personnel on 14 of their 22 first-down plays in New Orleans. (AP)

Programming note: Watch Friday’s 49ers press conference with Vic Fangio, Greg Roman and Eric Reid streaming live online right here at 12 p.m.

The 49ers have received virtually no production this season from any wide receiver not named Anquan Boldin. As a result, the 49ers have shifted through 10 games to an offense that relies heavily on two backs and two tight ends.

The 49ers are using that personal group a lot more this season – and with less success than a year ago.

Last season, the 49ers had a 60.3-percent success rate using two backs and two tight ends (or 22 personnel) on first downs, according to the research of Jeff Deeney, analyst for Pro Football Focus. Success on first down is defined as a gain of more than 3 yards.

[RELATED: Kaepernick not keeping tabs on Crabtree]

This season, the 49ers’ success rate on first down is just 44.7 percent. In the team’s 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the 49ers routinely found themselves in second-and-long situations after using “22” personnel on 14 of their 22 first-down plays.

With the 49ers showing a run-heavy personnel grouping, the Saints defense stacked the box with eight, nine and, sometimes even 10 defenders close to the line of scrimmage. The 49ers managed just 21 rushing yards on 11 first-down plays (1.9-yard average) while in 22 personnel. And the 49ers had even less success throwing on first down out of that personnel group with one completion in three attempts for 1 yard.

In Colin Kaepernick’s seven regular-season starts last year, the 49ers were in 22 personnel 34.4 percent of the time, according to Deeney. This season, they’ve been in that personnel group 40.1 percent of their offensive snaps. Excluding the three games this season in which tight end Vernon Davis has been sidelined due to injuries, and the 49ers have been in 22 personnel 47.6 percent of the time.

The 49ers’ second tight end last season was Delanie Walker, who caught 21 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns. Through 10 games this season, the 49ers second tight end, Vance McDonald, has seven catches for 96 yards and no touchdowns.

[RELATED: Crabtree joins practice after 'specialized warmup'] 

Fullback Bruce Miller, with his increase in playing time, is the 49ers’ third-leading receiver with 16 receptions for 176 yards. Boldin leads the 49ers' last-ranked passing game with 47 catches for 630 yards and three touchdowns. Davis has 34 receptions for 553 yards and eight touchdowns.

Kyle Williams spent the first nine games as the 49ers’ No. 2 wideout. He caught 12 passes for 113 yards before he was waived. In two games since his return from knee surgery, Mario Manningham has four catches for 38 yards.

[RELATED: Ex-49ers WR Williams: Out for season with ACL tear]

The 49ers anticipate the return of Michael Crabtree, who continues to rehab his surgically repaired right Achilles, in the near future.

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