49ers offense geared more toward playmakers under Johnson

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers are quickly catching on to the philosophical shift new coordinator Michael Johnson has brought to their offense.

Johnson took control when Jimmy Raye was fired by the team Sept. 27, and two weeks later the San Francisco offense appears more potent and capable of striking at opponents in an increased variety of ways.

Keeping in tune with the run-oriented mandate of head coach Mike Singletary, Johnson is finding ways to spread the field and get more of the team's offensive weapons involved.

"I don't think we've changed it, but we've opened it up a little bit more," receiver Josh Morgan said Thursday. "We have too much talent to make ourselves one-dimensional. We're opening up and giving everybody a chance to make plays and taking advantage of all our talent instead of just relying on certain guys."

Johnson, San Francisco's quarterbacks coach before being promoted last month, settled into an effective play-calling groove during last week's narrow 27-24 loss to Philadelphia, Johnson's second game in his new role.

The 49ers moved the ball consistently throughout the evening on their way to a season high for points scored in a game. That total likely would have been higher if San Francisco had not stopped itself with five turnovers, four of them coming in Philadelphia territory.

Johnson's imprint on the attack was evident as quarterback Alex Smith connected at least twice with six different receiving targets while throwing for a season-high 309 yards and three touchdowns. It was just the second 300-yard passing game of Smith's six-year career.

"I think it's evolving," Johnson said. "As that game got going the other day, it started getting into a rhythm and a comfort zone of what we want to become. And as we go forward, there will be an evolution into the type of offense that I want to run and we want to run as an offensive staff."

The 49ers weren't getting there under Raye, whose predictable offense ranked just 27th in the NFL last year during Raye's first season with the team.

Raye was brought back this year amid criticism, allowing the 49ers to begin consecutive seasons with the same offensive coordinator for the first time since 2003. But the results were the same as San Francisco fizzled to an 0-3 start that hastened Raye's departure. The 49ers remain winless at 0-5.

Raye's offense relied heavily on running back Frank Gore, who leads the NFC and ranks second in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage. San Francisco's offense still revolves around the two-time Pro Bowler, who has 124 touches through five games, but Johnson is spreading the ball around and giving opposing defenses more things to worry about.

Michael Crabtree, the 49ers' first-round draft pick last year, had just six receptions in the 49ers' first three games. He has had 14 in the two games since, including career-high totals of nine receptions for 105 yards against the Eagles.

Vernon Davis, San Francisco's Pro Bowl tight end, had a season-high 104 yards receiving against Philadelphia, including long receptions of 36, 31 and 27 yards as the 49ers finally displayed a vertical element that had been missing from their passing attack the first month of the season.

Crabtree and Davis became the first pair of 49ers to record 100 yards receiving in the same game since Jerry Rice and J.J. Stokes did it in 2000.

"We want to make sure we get the ball to 85 (Davis), 15 (Crabtree) and 21 (Gore) and give them opportunities to make plays every week," Johnson said. "If we get those guys the ball enough, they're going to make plays and score points and that's going to be a big part of what we do going forward."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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