San Francisco 49ers

49ers film review: Receivers, not tight ends, are offensive strength

49ers receiver Anquan Boldin breaks tackles for a big gain in the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens.
49ers receiver Anquan Boldin breaks tackles for a big gain in the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens. The Bee

SANTA CLARA -- Remember when Jim Tomsula said the 49ers' strength is their tight ends? Well, that wasn't the case Sunday against the Ravens. The team's strengths were its receivers and running backs (including the fullback), and the 49ers used a combination of runs and deep throws to the tune of 391 yards of offense, their highest total since Week 2.

The tight ends? There were fewer three tight end sets than usual and the only player who caught a pass was Vance McDonald, one for 10 yards. Garrett Celek started the game instead of Vernon Davis, who was playing for the first time since Week 3. Davis was targeted once but the ball skipped to him and he finished without a catch

Last year Davis finished with 26 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns, which was considered a massive disappointment for the formerly prolific tight end. This year he's on pace for 21 catches for 290 yards and no touchdowns.

The final tally from Sunday: Wide receivers 236 receiving yards; tight ends 10 receiving yards.

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The 49ers' play-action game was rolling like never before this season. On the play before Torrey Smith's 75-yard touchdown, left guard Alex Boone pulled on a power-blocking run by Carlos Hyde. The next play began the same way -- with Boone pulling and Hyde going in for the handoff. Colin Kaepernick, of course, kept the ball and, with the Ravens thinking about a run, had a couple of extra beats to make his throw, which hit Smith in stride.

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There was plenty of talk in the run-up to the game about monitoring -- perhaps even limiting -- linebacker NaVorro Bowman's snaps after a down game against the Giants. Mmm, it didn't happen. He played all 77 of the 49ers' defensive snaps along with Antoine Bethea, Kenneth Acker and Tramaine Brock.

Bowman also had a very solid game. He led all tacklers with 13, was one of the few 49ers to put a hit on quarterback Joe Flacco and had a tackle for loss. If Michael Wilhoite hadn't intercepted a short Flacco pass in the second quarter, Bowman would have. He also was in front of Flacco's target on the play.

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Ahmad Brooks admitted he was rusty after being away from the team for more than a week to be with his family following the death of his sister. For the second straight game, Aaron Lynch provided the most pressure off the edge and for the second straight game backup Eli Harold didn't make the stat sheet despite playing 13 snaps.

Defensive lineman Tank Carradine continues to see scant snaps despite the fact that he's adept at rushing the passer and that the 49ers aren't getting much pressure -- especially from the defensive line -- on opposing quarterbacks. Carradine was on the field during the Ravens' final two drives and did put pressure on Flacco on one of his throws.

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Andrew Tiller was stereotyped as a run blocker coming out of Syracuse in 2012. Here's what was written about him on NFL.com at the time:

Tiller is a non-explosive interior lineman who struggles in pass protection. It seems he hasn't honed in on a stance and pass-set that he feels comfortable with, as when gets too high at times and can be caught off balance by powerful pass rushers. He struggles in space to work upfield and get his hands on linebackers, and would really excel more in a zone blocking scheme.

Tiller, however, has shed some weight since then and mostly has been used as a pass blocker in the two games he's played so far. He again fared well in that capacity. On Sunday, he outpaced Jordan Devey, the starter at right guard, in snaps -- 34 to 25. They split the snaps, 34 to 34, the week prior.

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The 49ers say they want to be careful with Hyde's workload but they don't seem to have much faith in their rookie backups. Jarryd Hayne was in on nine offensive plays but didn't touch the ball. Mike Davis was in on three snaps. He was confused about his assignment on one, which resulted in a one-yard loss for Kaepernick. He was stuffed for no gain on his only carry.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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