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News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

November 18, 2010
It takes a village to draw up Johnson's game plan

Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson described it like it was a team of super heroes, a veritable Fox Force Five of offensive football. Mike Solari is the running-game expert. Tom Rathman excels in blitz pick-up. Pete Hoener is the go-to guy when it comes to short yardage and goal-line plays. As far as thwarting coverages, there's no one better than Jerry Sullivan. Jason Michael, the new quarterbacks coach, specializes in red-zone offense.

Every week, Johnson taps into their expertise when it comes to drawing up the game plan for the upcoming contest. "I know how I want to do it," Johnson said today. "I've always known that when I became a coordinator I wanted input from everybody."

Quarterback Alex Smith said the other coordinators he's worked with - and Lord knows there have been many - have sought input from their assistants here and there. But that feedback never has been as regimented as it is with Johnson. "There's no week where every single position coach doesn't get up in front of the offense at some point with some area of focus," Smith said. "Everyone has a part in it. So, yeah, that is different."

Indeed, the combination of Johnson calling the plays and Troy Smith throwing the ball has made the offense - at least in Week 10 - more varied than it's been all season. Five different receivers finished with 60-plus receiving yards on Sunday. Running back Frank Gore carried the ball 22 times and finished with 87 yards and a touchdown.

Tight end Delanie Walker, who has more yards than anyone since Troy Smith has stepped in, estimated that the playbook has been 35 percent re-written since Johnson took over from Jimmy Raye in Week 4. "I think that's been the difference - just that little spin that our new offensive coordinator has put on it," Walker said. "He's opened it up a little bit, giving everybody an opportunity to make plays down the field."

Johnson was asked about Mike Singletary's comment from early in the week that the coaching staff still has to "weed out" some of Troy Smith's bad habits. I thought what Johnson said immediately after he was asked what exactly must be weeded out was interesting.

"The one thing I want to do is encourage his daring," he said. "I want to encourage the stuff he has inside and allow that to come out without stifling it." Still, Johnson noted there were some bad plays that Smith has made that, to this point, he has gotten away with. Johnson pointed to a play in the fourth quarter when Smith, under pressure, threw a pass that luckily hit the ground before it reached two Rams defenders."

Said Johnson: "That's what I think coach Singletary is referring to - making sure that when you are pushing the envelope so to speak and you're being aggressive, that you don't take away from the big focus, which is making sure we take care of the ball."

Outside linebacker Travis LaBoy said he was not fined for the roughing-the-passer penalty he incurred in the second quarter Sunday. The penalty moved the ball to the 49ers 5-yard line, and on the next play Sam Bradford hit Danny Amendola for a touchdown. So if there's no fine, does that mean there shouldn't have been a penalty?

Joe Nedney has been walking around without a limp, but there definitely is quite a bit of swelling in and above his right knee. Nedney said the bone bruise occurred when, when planting on a kickoff, his femur (thigh bone) slammed into his tibia (bigger bone in lower leg). He said he didn't know his prognosis but said that he felt better Thursday than he did Wednesday, a positive sign.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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