The key to consistent offense

Wondering what the primary point of emphasis was for the 49ers during their bye week? Big surprise: Offensive consistency. If the Niners had that, they wouldn't be 4-5 coming out of their bye. If they can get it down the stretch, it might be enough to string together victories and squeeze them into the playoffs.

When the 49ers came back to work Monday, fresh from a full week without any practices, coach Dennis Erickson said he concluded that the team must ride its strong running game to find the consistency his offensive unit lacked during its first nine games.

In their four victories, the 49ers have averaged 170.5 yards on the ground. In their five losses, they've averaged 117.5 yards rushing.

"We have been successful when we run it," Erickson said Monday. "We have to be able to find ways to run it when they bring people down in there. When they do, we have to be able to take advantage of that by throwing the football. I think there have been times when you beat your head against the wall when they bring guys down in there and you have one-on-ones and you have to take advantage of that."

The Niners were never better at doing that this season than they were during their 30-10 rout of St. Louis that took them to their week off.

Even with backup Tim Rattay making his first career start at quarterback, the Niners clicked to the tune of 389 yards against a quality defense and easily could have put more points on the scoreboard.

A week before, they had managed just a paltry 255 yards of offense against a weak Arizona defense. The week before that, they manhandled defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay and its reigning No. 1 defense for 458 yards of offense. The week before that, they had just 261 yards against Seattle.

See the trend here? You don't have to ask which games were wins and which were losses.

Erickson wants the trend to end the rest of November and December and see his team get a more even performance on a weekly basis.

By steadily establishing the run - the Niners are near the top of the league rankings in rushing offense - the Niners can achieve the balance, and thus consistency, they are looking for.

"We scouted ourselves on down and distance, such as what we did on first and second down, all those different things to try to get balanced," Erickson said. "That is what we spend part of the time doing. We are pretty balanced to me, and when it is all said and done, it comes down to execution."

The Niners are averaging 140.7 yards rushing and 204.4 yards passing per game this season. If they can keep the former number at that level, maybe even improve it a bit, their passing yards are bound to increase, which could give San Francisco that little something extra it was missing through September and October, when four of the Niners losses came by a combined eight points.

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