The 49ers have found their offensive identity in these past three games. In the previous eight, they did not establish the run or commit to it. Instead, they threw the ball 32 times per game and ran the ball 25 times per game. That's a run-pass ratio of 44 - 56.
Now in their past three-game stretch, they have a run-pass ratio of 64 - 36 while averaging 42 carries and 178 yards per game. The Niners have been healthy during this stretch as well with George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell all making huge impacts in the running game.
The 49ers have been able to find success in particular by limiting how much their quarterback can hurt them. Early in the season, Jimmy Garoppolo was one of the worst quarterbacks in terms of big time throws (very low) compared to turnover worthy plays (very high).
Here is how Garoppolo compared on those stats vs the rest of the league – this was dated November 9th (when the 49ers were 3-5 after the Arizona loss)
In the first 8 games, he had 12 turnover worthy plays to only 4 big time throws (3:1 ratio). Since then, he has had 1 turnover worthy play (INT vs Minnesota) and 2 big time throws. During the three game stretch he has thrown the ball no more than 26 times while in the first eight games he threw the ball more than 26 times in 5 of 8.
The Niners have been able to find success understanding that Garoppolo will never take risks downfield at a high enough rate to make it worth all the turnover worthy potential plays that come with it. But with their dominance running the ball they have not had to do so.
The only thing we have yet to see (at least in the past 3 games) is what happens if they have to comeback down multiple scores in a game. They have the right playmakers to try to mount a comeback but unfortunately do not have the trust (nor should they) in their quarterback to accomplish this.
This team will still be able to run the ball and dominate teams. If game flow does not go their way and they find themselves in a hole it is unreasonable to think they have the right formula to win.
The 49ers are playoff contenders and on a hot streak but how will they play against a pass heavy team such as Cincinnati? Assuming they make the playoffs and are matched up against Green Bay, Tampa Bay or Dallas, how will they compete if they do not get out to an early lead?
This offense is the best version of itself right now, but sustaining that over the next 6 weeks and playoffs will be a tall task. The NFC is “wide-open” but that does not mean San Francisco is the right team to be able to take advantage of that.
They should beat bad teams (and likely will) but even the most optimistic 49ers supporters would tell you that making this formula work through February is unlikely.