Dickey: Martz has brought life back to 49ers' offense

Mike Martz is delivering. We’re only three weeks into the season but we’ve already seen more offense than in 16 games last season. We’ve even seen the 49ers go for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the one. Glory be!

Martz turns the NFL coach’s dictum — we take what the defense gives us — on its head. He makes the defense react to what he’s doing.

That’s the way Bill Walsh always operated. Walsh used formations that would force defenses into coverages that exposed them. Martz does it more with the plays he calls, but the effect is the same.

The Detroit Lions fired Martz because they thought he didn’t develop their running game — they were 32nd and 31st in the NFL in rushing during his two years in Detroit.

Without him, they’ve moved all the way up to 30th. Whoopee.

In fact, though, Martz uses the weapons he has. Marshall Faulk thrived as a running back/receiver in Martz’s offense in St. Louis. Frank Gore is doing the same with the Niners.

Yesterday, Gore ran 27 times for 130 yards and caught four passes for 32 yards.

In three games, he’s run for 287 yards and caught passes for another 125. His comparable numbers last year at this time were 175 and 37.

The 49ers were as balanced as they could be against the Lions. Counting J.T. O’Sullivan’s four scrambles and one sack, Martz called 28 pass plays, 34 runs. Yardage, too, was very close: 188 passing, 182 running.

Martz keeps the defense off-balance. In Sunday’s game, O’Sullivan was throwing mostly short passes early, but with the lead at 14-3, Martz changed strategies. From the San Francisco 28, O’Sullivan threw a deep ball to Vernon Davis on which the Lions were called for defensive holding. Then he hit Bryant Johnson for 25 yards, Josh Morgan for 18 and Delanie Walker for 24 yards and the touchdown.

Martz always has a bit of trickery; Arnaz Battle’s 18-yard run on a double reverse set up the 49ers’ second touchdown. Again, that was reminiscent of Walsh, who always said it was important to use trick plays early because you couldn’t be certain there will be an opportunity late.

When the Lions muscled up to stop straight-ahead running plays at their goal line, Martz sent in another trick play, using kick returner Allen Rossum on a reverse.

Mike Nolan had first sent the field goal team out, then called them back. As usual, he portrayed it as his decision, but I’m betting he got an earful from Martz when he was going for the field goal. Nolan always goes for the field goal, but Martz plays to win.

It helps that his quarterback is getting more comfortable in his system, making good decisions and also sensing the pressure better. O’Sullivan ran four times for 32 yards against the Lions, and defensive coordinators will have to tell their pass rushers to be aware that O’Sullivan can run for yardage if they come too hard at him.

It’s too early to predict how the 49ers will do this season, with a tough four games coming up: road games against the Saints and Super Bowl-champion Giants sandwiched around home games against the Patriots and Eagles. But with Martz calling the plays and O’Sullivan running the offense, the 49ers are once again fun to watch.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

49ersGlenn Dickeysports

Just Posted

This weekend at Z Space, AXIS Dance Company premieres “re:surge,” three new works exploring place and belonging. Dancers, left to right, DeMarco Sleeper, Louisa Mann, JanpiStar, Sonsherée Giles, Yuko Monden Juma (Photograph David DeSilva)
AXIS Dance Company’s ‘re:surge’ is a premiere and a farewell

The final season under Artistic Director Marc Brew

Badly needed rain cooled off pedestrians on Market Street in The City on Wednesday. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Storm door opens in San Francisco — what will the rains bring?

‘Come Monday, fire season in Northern California should be done’

Newly appointed City Attorney David Chiu will play a key role in an upcoming legal battle between gig economy companies and The City. (Sheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock)
City Attorney David Chiu faces immediate test in major gig economy lawsuit

DoorDash and Grubhub are suing San Francisco over price controls

FILE — In-N-Out Burger, the popular California fast-food chain, is resisting San Francisco's public health rules that require indoor diners to show proof of vaccination. (J. Emilio Flores/The New York Times)
When it comes to San Francisco vaccine rules, In-N-Out should heed Biblical advice

Burger chain’s vaccine fight distracts from its tasty burgers and French fries controversy

The Walgreens at 4645 Mission St. in The City is among those slated to close. <ins>(Courtesy photo)</ins>
Walgreens says it’s closing five SF stores due to crime. Where’s the data?

Walgreens should be transparent, enlighten city leaders about crime’s effect on business

Most Read