First Down First
October 29 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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As the 49ers jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the first 16 minutes, the offensive philosophy shifted. It was this change, that lead to a rather mellow offensive period through the second and third quarters, and at time even in the fourth. Rather than trying to accumulate first downs, and push the offense down field, the 49ers elected to ‘goof around a bit’ trying too hard for the big play. As the team got away from getting first downs, and moving methodically down the field, they allowed the Cardinals to creep back into the game.
The result, was Garcia throwing long on third and short situations, and the 49ers also shifting away from running the ball. Most of Barlow’s 18 carries came in the fourth quarter, as the team got away from running the ball. It wasn’t that passing was so easy, but with such a big lead, the 49ers kept thinking that they could have their way with the Cardinals. They were wrong.
It’s important that the 49ers try and stretch the field, and go for the big play throughout a football game. But at some points, the cooler head needs to prevail, and the team needs to start picking up the first downs, and controlling the ball.
The result of the 49ers change in offensive philosophy was five minutes less in the time of possession battle, and it allowed the Cardinals to get back into a game in which they had no business trying to mount a comeback. The 49ers have to start controlling the clock, especially once they have a lead. That’s not to say they need to become conservative or predictable, but they do need to make the smart decisions to pick up the first downs.