Last week when the 49ers played the Jets it was clear what the offensive strategy was: We're going to run it up your back, try and stop us if you can.
New York obviously couldn't "stop us" which resulted in San Francisco piling up over 200 yards on the ground, including a mercy slide by Colin Kaepernick late in the game on what would have been the eighty-bajillionth rushing touchdown of the day.
In the loss to the Minnesota Vikings the 49ers came out throwing and struggled to establish the run-game once they decided to go back to it. One would think that any team facing the 49ers would "sell-out" against the run, putting extra defenders in the box and daring Alex Smith to beat them with his arm.
Smith has been hesitant to unleash the ball to deeper routes, often favoring the 5 yard completion even when the 15 yarder is also open. He's also missed on most of the deep passes that he has thrown, and Mario Manningham commented that the wide receivers were still working on getting on the same page with Smith. That appeared obvious as a deep pass sailed out of his reach against the Jets.
This week may be the perfect opportunity for the passing game to shine, though. If the Bills, who've allowed over 100 yards rushing per game on average thus-far, decide to make a deal with the devil and load-up the box with defenders intent on stopping the 49ers power run game, Alex Smith needs to be able to take advantage of opportunities in the passing game that arise as a result.
I've long said that if I were facing the 49ers that's just what I'd do: take away everything inside of about 15 yards and make Alex Smith throw it over your head. Play man coverage and dare him to place the ball perfectly on his deep throws. Of course you also need to have help on Vernon Davis, the only receiver that Smith seemingly is willing to throw to when partially covered.
If this happens as I expect it to, I'm hoping the 49ers run Mario Manningham and Randy Moss on some combination routes that get them isolated one-on-one...and Smith must cut it loose. While he likes to protect the football, these are relatively high-percentage throws, especially if he trusts his guys to make a play to either catch the ball or make sure the defender doesn't.
I'm hoping we see the run set-up the pass, then some play-action strikes down the field for huge gains. Of course, if Buffalo doesn't sell-out against the run, I'm also perfectly find with beating them into submission in the trenches if that's how things work-out.