The San Francisco 49ers have entered as the number two seed in the NFC conference and now the team has to make the post season adjustments in order to have a successful run in the playoffs.
The 49ers are a team with no playoff experience and they’ll be facing the New Orleans Saints’ high-powered offense featuring record setting quarterback Drew Brees. Here’s the adjustments they must make:
1. Alex Smith’s mobility is the key to success in the red-zone and the 49ers must convert 50 percent of their scoring opportunities inside the 20-yard line.
Smith can be used in roll-out offensive formation sets to isolate 49ers receivers’ one-on-one match ups to improve their scoring opportunities.
The use of Smith’s speed and quickness will be extremely difficult to defend for their opponents in goal line situations.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman and head coach Jim Harbaugh can make the adjustments to tailor the offense scheme to fit Smith’s strengths and avoid his weaknesses of being trapped when the pocket collapses.
Smith’s mobility will be a key factor and the utilization boot-leg plays should increase their efficiency on third down situations. The team has dealt with red-zone issues all year and now it’s time to make the adjustment and put the points on the board.
2. The targeting of Michael Crabtree must increase against the Saints and is a major adjustment that will bring success in the post season.
Crabtree’s receiving numbers are rising and it looks like he’s becoming Smith’s favorite target.
He’s dedicated to being one of the best receivers in the game and the production on the field is starting to flourish
The 49ers receivers are currently recovering from injuries and they don’t want to get Smith in a position of throwing to receivers who didn’t gain experience in regular season play.
Defensive coordinators will be looking to take Vernon Davis out of the game plan by forcing Smith to throw to new targets, which could lead to Crabtree becoming the number one target.
3. Sure Tackling will be a high priority for the 49ers against the Saints, and they have gotten away from the basic fundamental principles of “no yards after the catch” against receivers.
The team struggled in this area against the Baltimore Ravens. It was a direct factor in the team’s inability to stop the Ravens third down conversions.
The entire 49ers defensive unit must get to the football on every play and return to the form they held for the first three quarters of the season.
Understandably, we’re talking about the number one defense in the NFL, but the last two regular season games against St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks weren’t an indication of their best defensive football.
Goal line Defense will be crucial and the 49ers have to keep running back Darren Sproles out of the end zone. The defense must regain their form and not rely on their past performance in the regular season.
4. Game Management is going to be critical adjustment in the playoffs and Harbaugh and the coaches have proven their abilities in the regular season.
The Playoffs are a different mentality and require efficient management on every play. It’s extremely important to have no mistakes in play calling, play challenges and the 49ers must utilize time outs on strategy and not on play clock expiration.
Harbaugh understands the importance of game preparation, Situational football and the field position chess match.
The most important adjustment is when to go for the forth down and 1-yard situations, because they’ll be critical decisions to winning and extended the season.
The Saints head coach Sean Payton has already led his team in the playoffs and succeeded in winning the Super Bowl in 2009, by making those same decisions.
5. Special Teams coach Brad Seely must have his special teams unit execute flawlessly and have them prepared for all scenarios that may arise.
The 49ers return game is in flux because of injury to Ted Ginn, and they’ve had a block punt, lost onside kick recovery in recent weeks. Ginn is one of the best in the business, and he always presents the possibility of going all the way on both kickoffs and punt returns.
The 49ers have used Kyle Williams, Kendall Hunter and Reggie Smith as viable options for return duties, but none are able to match the speed and sure handed catching skills that Ginn possesses.
The 49ers special teams play could turn out to be the most critical part of the game against the Saints. Most inexperienced special teams fumble or get surprised by a fake field goal because unfamiliarity can cause a game impacting play that quickly swings momentum.
Written and submitted by Mike Walker ( firstname.lastname@example.org).