The Vikings are not the only team who may be looking to increase the number of downfield completions this week. For as great as the San Francisco 49ers offense has looked in putting up 57 points over the first two games of the season, one element of their offense they’ve yet to put on consistent display is the downfield passing game.
San Francisco is tied for 24th with the Vikings and Houston Texans with 5 completions of 20+ yards this season. And they are not out of form in that ranking – the 49ers ranked tied for 23rd with the Vikings and NY Jets with 41 completions in that same metric in 2011.
A closer look, however, will tell you that San Francisco can move the ball with an explosive passing game when they put their mind to it. The number of completions of 20+ yards will not blow you away, but the 49ers efficiency in doing so does. In 2011, the 49ers were tied for the second fewest passing attempts of 21+ yards, yet they were tied for 9th in completion percentage and averaged 11.72 yards per attempt – more than Atlanta, New England and Philadelphia – on those passes. This year, San Francisco is once again tied for fewest pass attempts of 21+ yards, yet their tied for 3rd in completion percentage (50%) and QB Alex Smith has a 127.1 passer rating on those passing attempts.
“When they do take shots, they are pretty efficient in how they take their shots,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams said on Thursday. “So you want to make sure you’re aware of where guys are and make sure that you’re playing top-to-bottom in the back end and eliminate those shots because we’ll have enough guys to focus on the run. We just have to make sure that the shots the do take, that we shut those shots down.”
This offseason the 49ers made additions to their receiving corps that should provide Smith with even more confidence to throw deep passes. Mario Manningham, the NY Giants hero from last year’s Super Bowl, signed with the team in free agency. The 49ers drafted a receiver – A.J. Jenkins – in the 1st round of this year’s draft, and former 1st-round pick Michael Crabtree has come on strong and leads the team in receiving with 13 receptions for 143 yards. There is also Vernon Davis, one of the best TEs in the NFL and a guy who leads the League in TD receptions this year with 3.
And let’s not forget about another guy who can do a thing or two to improve the down-field passing game. Randy Moss. The 49ers also signed Moss this past offseason to add a spark to the offense. While Moss is in his 14th season already and didn’t play at all last year, you can be sure that he will not be lost by the Vikings defense in this game.
“You never want to turn Moss loose,” Williams said. “That would be a mistake, not to pay attention to Randy Moss. Until he’s turned in his retirement papers, I think every defensive coordinator, every secondary, every defense is going to pay attention to him. We have to.”
Tags: Alan Williams
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