Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson spoke with the media on Thursday and was asked about the team’s playcalling on first down. On Sunday, the 49ers ran the ball eight times on first down and there was a sense that the predictability hindered the 49ers’ offense to get going early on.
“Well, there needs to be a better mixture, I would agree with that,” said Johnson. “If you look at our eight runs though, six of them were efficient (going at least four yards). And our deal is to make sure that we’re in third-and-short, and put ourselves into manageable third-down situations.
“There needs to be a better mixture of run-pass, but the bottom line is to be efficient on first-down and have a four-yard-plus play most of the time in the game.”
One of the reasons why the 49ers would run so much because running back Frank Gore is the team’s best offensive weapon. Gore had two fumbles on Sunday, which were both very costly to the 49ers’ scoring opportunities early in the game.
“I think Frank just had an off-night,” Johnson said. “I think it’s something that we just have to make sure that we handle. We have to make sure that we take care of the football.”
Johnson said that he still wants to get a balanced offense, but the running game with Gore has been successful and that he wants it to work. Running back Brian Westbrook’s role, according to Johnson, will also expand as the season continues. Johnson did explain his reasoning as to why the 49ers have run the ball up the middle 66-percent of the time, making it easier for the defense to stop the run.
“I think it makes it easier for the defense to stop it if you don’t have all of the complements,” he said. “We have to make sure that we complement our core runs. Our core run is the power play, which is an inside run. It’s one of the best runs that (RB) Frank Gore runs, and it’s something that he has been successful with his entire career.
“And it’s up to myself and the other coaches to make sure that we complement that core run with all the bells and whistles to make sure that they can’t just come down and squeeze the A gaps with eight-man pressure.”
Despite having some success with the runs up the middle on first down plays, the 49ers have to use the rest of their offense to maintain a balanced offense. Johnson said he understands that the offense must be balanced and said that we should expect to see it in the future.
“I think you will see a better balance of all the things I’ve said earlier,” he said. “I think going forward you’ll see that.”