Throughout the season there have been a number of complaints regarding the 49ers offense, one being the lack of their use of screens. The 49ers actually run a fair number of these, but often it is not done in the conventional manner of a pass to the halfback. This week ProFootballFocus reported that the 49ers have thrown the second fewest screen passes to their halfbacks in the league, ahead of only the Arizona Cardinals.
This has of course led to speculation as to why this is the case. Many, myself included have stated that the reason is due the personnel. As a power run team the interior linemen on the 49ers are not at their best when asked to block in space.
I have gone through and found the 5 screen passes referenced by PFF and will detail them below. The one thing that I found is that they have actually tried to run 2 outside screens to the halfback, the other 3 are all inside screens off the same backfield action. Let's take a look.
VS Arizona. 21 personnel, 2nd & 5 SF 49, result 3 yard gain by Anthony Dixon
This is your typical outside screen in which the guards will pull upfield to pick up the inside linebacker that started out over them. In the picture below you can see Alex Boone already locating the linebacker and beginning on his track. Anthony Davis has done a good job of keeping the end off of Dixon who is faking pass protection.
Dixon has now peeled outside while Boone and Iupati close in on the linebackers.
Dixon has the ball and has started upfield. Boone is to kick out the linebacker (push him to the sidelines) while Iupati cuts his man off.
Dixon doesn't hit the small seam created by the linemen, instead cutting back inside of Iupati and into the pursuit of the Cardinals defense.
VS Washington, 11 personnel 2nd & 5, SF49, result Kaepernick is sacked for a loss of 4.
Three things have already happened to kill this play. The first is that the DE over Joe Staley has crashed down, taking Iupati out of the play and second the OLB has recognized that it is a screen and has grabbed Gore in the backfield. The play side inside linebacker has also quickly recognized the screen and has gotten outside to a point in which the lineman can not make it out to him.
As a result of the outside linebacker blowing up the play Kaepernick is left with no other option than to try and run the screen himself. He rolls to his left and slips down while trying to make a cut.
VS St Louis, 22 personnel 2nd & 10 StL 43, result 9 yard gain by Kendall Hunter
You should notice that the backfield action and down field blocking by the line are the same on the next 3 plays. It starts with a play action look to the left. Staley leads the DE up the field and quickly releases to get to the second level.
Hunter chips on the DE. This is key to make it look like a pass that they have already successfully run to Miller in the flat. Notice Miller running the route. Staley and Goodwin have already released their blocks and are location. You can see that he has already begun to turn and run.
Ball is delivered to Hunter.
Goodwin top and Staley bottom begin to get into their blocks.
VS Jacksonville, 22 personnel 2nd & 24 SF 29, result 6 yard gain by Gore.
Same exact play as above.
VS St Louis, 11 personnel, 3rd & 9 StL 10, result 3 yard gain by Gore.
Same play as the two above, but from a different look. Boldin runs the flat instead of Miller and Kaepernick tries to draw attention in that direction with a quick pump. Gore is chipping the DE and Boone is heading up field for the inside linebacker.
The play is blown up by the DT on the right side of the Rams defense. He does a nice job of recognizing the screen and dropping off. As a result he is on top of Gore and brings him down for only a gain of 3. You can see the path to the endzone had he not properly diagnosed the play.