Drive of the Week: Niners Ground Birds With Run Game

Drive of the Week, Inside the Game, Jonathan Smyth, San Francisco 49ers

With a 23-3 lead over the 49ers midway through the third quarter, it looked as if the “Dream Team” would finally get some sleep on Sunday night. After a 1-2 start to the season, the Eagles were trying to get back on track against the 49ers, a team widely considered as an inferior opponent. One journalist even went as far as to say that he would “take a bike from Philadelphia to San Francisco”if the Eagles lost.

Better dust off that 10 speed.

Alex Smith (AP)

After two touchdown drives led by Alex Smith, the 49ers found themselves down six with a little over six minutes to play. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh let Smith loose on the previous two scoring drives, but not this one. Harbaugh brought it old school with a power rushing attack straight out of the Stanford playbook.

1st and 10 at the 49ers 23 – Harbaugh spreads it out, reminding the Eagles that, “Hey, we just threw the ball up and down the field on you the last two drives.” Three-yard pass play to Crabtree.

2nd and 7 at the 49ers 26 – Here comes the hammer. Gore goes up the gut led by a great pull block from Joe Staley. This is a college option play on which the Niners O-line let the defense end come free to help create a big hole for Gore.

1st and 10 at the Eagles 49 – “Don’t forget about the pass!” says Harbaugh. A nice crossing route by the tight ends leads to a 7-yard gain by Vernon Davis.

2nd and 3 at the Eagles 42 – The Eagles finally make a defensive stop but it’s negated by a face-mask penalty. Here’s a 15-yard present gift wrapped by Brian Rolle.

1st and 10 at the Eagles 29 – Here are my internal thoughts as I watch this play develop…

Frank Gore (AP)

“Uh oh, nobody’s open.”
“He’s going to throw a pick.”
“It’s Alex Smith, he’s going throw a pick.”
“Here it comes.”
“Wow he threw it out of bounds!”

Smart play by Alex Smith. The Phoenix is rising from the ashes!

2nd and 10 at the Eagles 29 – Quick throw to Davis for 3 yards leads to a manageable third down.

3rd and 7 at the Eagles 26 – This has passing situation written all over it, but Harbaugh says, “I’m going to put in my backup running back and run a toss play.” He sticks to the run and calls a well-designed play made possible by a great crack-back block by Vernon Davis.

1st and 10 at the Eagles 12 – Harbaugh brings the beef on the touchdown run by putting a nose tackle in the backfield with a fullback and Gore. He says, “No surprises here. We’re running right up the middle and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

Sweet dreams Philly.

For more on this drive, check out Brian Baldinger’s play-by-play analysis on’s “Drive of the Week.”

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