San Francisco 49ers

New-look Niners: pass-heavy gameplan has SF up at half

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Who kidnapped Jim Harbaugh and brainwashed Greg Roman?

The 49ers, who have been as run-oriented, old-school and stodgy as any team in the league in the Harbaugh era, rolled out a slick new look against Arizona in the first half.

The 49ers rarely had used even three receivers over the previous three seasons. But presumably due to a lack of healthy tight ends, the team used five wide receivers on multiple occasions, including on five straight plays on the opening possession. The receiver-heavy look did not feature a running back and the 49ers ran it without a huddle.

It was successful.

On their initial drive, the team ran 12 plays, the last a short pass from Colin Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree to make the score 7-3. They strung together a 14-play drive on their second possession that was capped by Carlos Hyde's stretch run to the left side.

Kaepernick is 14-18 for 116 yards and a touchdown, and his passer rating is 112. He also has run the ball nine times – several on designed runs – which is evidence the back injury that landed him on the injury report last week is not a big concern.

His favorite target so far has been No. 3 receiver Stevie Johnson, who has five catches for 49 yards. Conversely, Frank Gore has carried the ball just five times for seven yards.

The 49ers have only two healthy tight ends on the roster with Vernon Davis (ankle) and Vance McDonald (knee) not in uniform today. Derek Carrier started the game at tight end and caught a 23-yard pass from Kaepernick on third and one on the team’s opening drive.

The Cardinals used four-receiver formations at times in the first half with the 49ers countering with six defensive backs, including cornerback Chris Cook.

On an early third-down play, quarterback Drew Stanton, substituting for Carson Palmer, hit Michael Floyd for a 36-yard gain against safety Antoine Bethea. That later set up a 51-yard Cardinals field goal. Arizona had another long drive on its second possession that also ended in a field goal, this one from 32 yards.

Penalties continued to be an issue for the 49ers a week after they were flagged 16 times in a loss to the Bears. They have three at the half, including two that came on third-down and led to Cardinals' first downs.

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