Looking back during the bye: Offense

<EM>SFI</EM> takes a look at what's working, what's not and what needs to be done on offense as the 49ers prepare to emerge from their bye week.

WHAT'S WORKING

Not as much as usual: In 17 offensive statistical categories kept by the NFL, the 49ers ranked 20th or lower in 11 after their first three games. This is quite atypical of the San Francisco attack.

The rushing game: After a slow start, the Niners got untracked with 252 rushing last week against the Redskins. Given the opportunity, Kevan Barlow and Garrison Hearst can get the job done and keep the offense moving. They complement each other well and are something the offense can build around.

Good pass protection: The passing game has had plenty of problems, but quarterback Jeff Garcia has generally been protected well. He has been sacked just three times in three games, and that's an outstanding ratio that ranks in the top fourth of the NFL.

Tight end Eric Johnson: The second-year player has become a legitimate force in the attack and is the team's leading receiver after three weeks.

WHAT'S NOT WORKING

The aerial attack: What attack? It's nearing the end of September, and the Niners rank 28th in the league in passing yards per game. Since the Niners rely on their precision short passing game to move the sticks, this has got to change for the team to be successful.

Down field production by receivers: Terrell Owens averages just 10.2 yards per catch, J.J. Stokes averages 7.7 and Tai Streets just 10.0 on his four catches.

Quarterback Jeff Garcia: The two-time Pro Bowler is off to the poorest start of his career. He's completing 65 percent of his passes, but his uncharateristic 72.8 passer rating is more indicative of his inconsistency and the way he's struggling to move the offense.

Red zone performance: The Niners ranked second in the NFL in scoring inside their opponent's 20-yard line last year. This year, 11 possessions inside the 20 have produced just four touchdowns, which ranks them 12th in the NFC.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE

Strategical adjustments: No doubt about it, the Niners need to learn from what defenses have thrown at them the first three weeks and tweak their offensive play-calling accordingly.

More touches for Owens: The coaching staff has been looking for more ways to get him the ball, but he needs more than just his 13 touches through three games. He's the team's fourth-leading rusher - with just two carries.

More production from other receivers: Whatever it takes, the Niners need to start getting more from receivers not named Owens to make defenses honest.

More touches for Barlow: He's averaging 5.8 yards a carry (to Hearst's 3.9) and is ninth in the NFC in rushing even though every running back ahead of him in the rankings has at least 14 more carries. There's nothing wrong with the Niners continuing to share carries between Barlow and Hearst, but Barlow should become the featured back the remainder of the season.

 

 


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