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

November 9, 2011
Coughlin: 49ers offense requires "very, very good preparation"

There won't be any half days this week for Tom Coughlin and his New York Giants coaching staff. Preparing for the 49ers means preparing for myriad personnel groups and plays the 49ers can run out of those groupings.


"They do a great job of setting most of the things they do off of some kind of run action, lots of combinations of personnel," Coughlin said on a conference call. "So they cause a lot of concern and require a very, very good preparation."

Jim Harbaugh's intent is to make opposing coaches work as hard as possible during the week and to create as much doubt as possible as to what the 49ers are going to do from play to play.

The problem in San Francisco's most recent game was that the offense also gave the officiating crew plenty of work and plenty of doubt. Facing a third-and-one situation in the first quarter, the 49ers sent in their "heavy jumbo" package, which includes an extra offensive lineman, Alex Boone, and an extra fullback, 330-pound Isaac Sopoaga.

Referee Gene Steratore, however, took so long in announcing Boone and Sopoaga as eligible receivers that quarterback Alex Smith didn't get under center until eight seconds were left on the play clock. The 49ers were docked five yards for delay of game, and the Redskins defenders were able to get a peak at an alignment they likely hadn't seen before.

Until that point, the 49ers had used that heavy alignment on the right side of the offensive line. On that particular play, Sopoaga, Boone and tackle Joe Staley started on the right side and shifted left. Tight end Vernon Davis started left and shifted right.

Said play-by-play man Kenny Albert: "I don't know if the Redskins defense knew how to line up on that play. They get a little advantage on the San Francisco delay of game."

A similar situation occurred later in the game when, with three tight ends lined up left of the line of scrimmage, one of them, Justin Peele, got up to go in motion. A flag was thrown, and Peele was penalized for simulating a snap. Both penalties incensed Harbaugh, who lost both yardage and the element of surprise.

I asked Peelle after the game if the 49ers offense was so unusual that it was fooling the officials. He declined to comment on the officiating - and risk a fine - but he did say this. "We're unique in some of the stuff we do," Peelle said. "But I have done something like that before and haven't gotten in trouble for it."

Coughlin said it's not unusual for teams to bring in an extra offensive lineman. "When they bring in Sopoaga in addition to the linemen, then that's a different story," Coughlin said. "I don't see that much."

"Whatever you see on tape, you have to prepare for," he continued. "Whatever combinations of personnel that they use, you have to have a plan for. And that's the purpose of doing a lot of the stuff that they do."

Coughlin said he expected center David Baas (knee) to play Sunday, "barring any setbacks." Baas, of course, took part in one day of the "Camp Alex" player-led practice sessions at San Jose State in June. Two key Giants offensive players, RB Ahmad Bradshaw and WR Hakeem Nicks, did not practice today.

-- 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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