Notebook: Shotgun has offense in transition

The 49ers feature an offense in transition. The club wanted to be a power running team this season, but on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, San Francisco ran 38 of its 69 offensive snaps out of the shotgun formation.

"I think we just have to see how much of the shotgun look we'll keep going forward," coach Mike Singletary said.

As the 49ers began preparations on Tuesday's for Thursday's pivotal game against the Chicago Bears, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye indicated the use of the shotgun will be dictated by the team's game plan for each particular opponent.

Despite San Francisco's intention on being a power rushing team – one of the reasons Raye was brought in this year as the team's seventh coordinator in seven years – Raye does have a background with the shotgun formation. Of course, with 33 years of experience in NFL coaching, with stints as offensive coordinators with six different teams, Raye has background in many offensive sets.

"There was a period of time where I coached with a couple of disciples of the Bill Walsh system that didn't believe in the gun that we didn't use it," Raye said Tuesday. "But, in New York, Oakland, Atlanta and L.A. with Jim Everett, all of that was gun. What everybody needs to understand is what we did Sunday has always been a part of what we do. It's a part of the offense we have here."

The 49ers went exclusively with the shotgun during their two-minute drills at the end of each of half against Tennessee. But the team also sprinkled in more shotgun and spread formations during the course of the loss, San Francisco's fourth consecutive defeat.

For the first time this season, the 49ers tried to run the ball out of the shotgun. Frank Gore picked up 41 yards on seven rushing attempts out of that formation. Singletary said there is less illusion with run plays out of the shotgun because of the absence of a fullback.

Quarterback Alex Smith was 17 of 28 for 155 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a sack in the shotgun. That includes the stats he compiled in the two-minute drill, when he completed 12 of 18 for 115 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

"I like the things that work," Singletary said. "I don't get into a 'look' or whatever. I look at, how does it fit with our personnel? It's something that we have the tools to do."

Singletary added that the 49ers might want to add more to their shotgun attack and cut back on "some of the other things we're doing."

The 49ers will not have much time to add large elements to their passing attack this week with the quick turnaround against the Bears. Raye is likely to stick with many of the elements that were introduced against the Titans.

"We made improvement and there were areas of the game Sunday that the play was exceptional, was outstanding," he said. "But it's very difficult to overcome four turnovers. We were five-for-five in the red zone, three touchdowns and two field goals. We had a 19-play drive that overcame three or four penalties and a negative that went down and got points. I thought the playing area was very good. Without the turnovers, it would have been a different outcome."

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Veteran Isaac Bruce opened the game as the 49ers' No. 3 wideout. But when the aging Bruce slipped coming out of a break late in the first half, he did not return to the game.

He did not appear on the team's injury report, but coach Mike Singletary said Bruce has been bothered by an ankle sprain.

Jason Hill replaced Bruce as the third wideout. Hill caught two touchdown passes and finished with four receptions for 50 yards – his first catches of the year. Bruce has not scored this season.

"It was nice to have him out there," quarterback Alex Smith said of Hill. "He and I got a lot of work together the first six weeks of the season, working out there on the scout team together. I've got a lot of trust in Jason, and it showed out there today. He's just one of those guys who continues to keep working and working hard and waiting for his chance. I thought he did a nice job (Sunday)."

Bruce did not play at all in the second half, as starters Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan, as well as Hill and Brandon Jones, all saw action ahead of the 16-year pro.

Raye said he was uncertain regarding Bruce's status for Thursday night and the role he will play in San Francisco's offense the remainder of the season.

"We'll see where he is physically and then make a decision going forward," Raye said. "In the meantime, we will increase the activity of Josh Morgan and Jason Hill."

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The 49ers trail the Cardinals by two games in the NFC West. Singletary was asked about the 49ers' quest to catch up to the defending division champs.

"I don't care about the Cardinals," Singletary said. "I care nothing about the Cardinals. I care nothing about anything else that's happening in the NFL. I don't care about that. The only thing I care about is this football team realizing that we can win games if we do not kill ourselves. It's as simple as that. I don't care about the Cardinals."

If the 49ers can keep themselves in contention, over the next month, they can make up ground on the Cardinals when Arizona visits San Francisco for a Monday night battle on Dec. 14.


PASSING OFFENSE: F -- It was all about turnovers for the 49ers. All four of their giveaways came in the passing game. QB Alex Smith threw three interceptions. Twice he locked into the intended target, allowing the safety enough time to get over and make a play. Smith also had the ball knocked loose as he was throwing when RT Adam Snyder was beaten in pass protection. The 49ers' four turnovers led to 24 points for the Titans. Without the turnovers, the picture looks brighter as Smith completed 29 of 45 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns and tight end Vernon Davis set career highs with 10 receptions for 102 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- The only problem is that the 49ers did not run a whole lot. RB Frank Gore produced 83 yards on 15 rushing attempts. He gained tough yards, including a 3-yard touchdown run. The offensive line did a good job against the Titans, as the 49ers averaged 5.4 yards on their 20 rushing attempts.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- The 49ers did not get much pressure on Titans QB Vince Young, who completed 12 of 19 passes for 172 yards. He generally had time to sit back and make throws down the field, including a 49-yard pass to wideout Justin Gage against the double coverage of Shawntae Spencer and Dashon Goldson. OLB Parys Haralson and DE Justin Smith got no pressure on Young throughout the game.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- The 49ers allowed a 100-yard rushing day for the first time this season. Chris Johnson gained 135 yards on 25 attempts. He also scored two touchdowns. Young rushed for a score, too, on a quarterback draw. Patrick Willis was the 49ers' only defender who could run with Johnson. Willis finished with 10 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Andy Lee had another exceptional game. He averaged 56.7 gross yards on three punts, with a career-high net average of 53.3. He landed one punt at the 4-yard line, too. The 49ers did not get much in the return game, as Brandon Jones had minus-3 yards combined on three returns. Michael Robinson returned the ball to the 27-yard line, on average, on his seven kickoff returns.

COACHING: C -- The 49ers lost for the fourth time in a row. Were they too pass-oriented against Tennessee? Coach Mike Singletary wants to have a running team, and his No. 1 formula for winning games is avoiding turnovers. But Smith dropped back to throw 51 times, and the 49ers committed four turnovers.

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