With the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers divisional playoff game right around the corner on Saturday, many are wondering what is the key to success that the 49ers must utilize to pull out a win. And though playing hard and executing and eliminating turnovers is a must for any team to be successful. There is a deeper element that provides the 49ers the opportunities of success. And that is running the ball hard and often with their running backs. Sure, production by the quarterback is a much-needed element, but the true measure of this team comes from the running back core.
The ball needs to be systematically placed in running back Frank Gore’s hands over and over again. He needs 20 carries per game. And back up running back LaMichael James also needs his fair share of carries, the team is most productive when he sees at least eight carries per game. Even third string running back Anthony Dixon helps with his change of pace running when he sees three of four carries per game as well. The 49ers need to pound the ball with the running game at least 37 times to be as effective as they can be.
Ultimately, that does mean that they will have to limit the carries of quarterback Colin Kaepernick to six on the night. As talented as he is running the ball, the 49ers find more success when his rushing attempts are reduced to six or fewer. In the seven games since Kaepernick took over as starting quarterback the 49ers score 27 or more points when his rushes are held to six or fewer. Even in the win against the New England Patriots when Kaepernick rushed seven times in route to putting up 41 points, the disparity between his rushes and the score were offset by the overwhelming presence of the 49ers defense.
In that game, the 49ers defense forced four turnovers, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. All of which resulted in the 49ers offense taking over deep into Patriots territory. Including one interception that was returned 63 yards to the New England five yard line and one fumble recovery that was returned 66 yards to the New England six yard line. And that is not even taking into consideration the three sacks that they had on Tom Brady. So it’s reasonable to assume that had it not been for the stellar play by the San Francisco defense, the seven rushing attempts by Kaepernick could have been in a losing effort. Not only is it reasonable, it is likely.
So statistically, it is a proven fact that the 49ers offense is more potent when they utilize their running backs for rushing attempts more often, and utilize the quarterbacks rushing abilities less often and in situational opportunities. There is no doubt that the 49ers have the talent on offense and defense to move on to the next round, they just have to focus in on what works for them and use that to their advantage.
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