Let’s play a game – I like to call it “Figuring Out Greg Roman.” I’ll show you a formation and the down and distance from the 49ers’ rout if the Bills. You tell me whether it’s a run up the middle or a deep pass. Ready?


What do you think? Jumbo set, one wideout, all hands on deck to block. Obvious run situation, right? Wrong.

Roman sent everyone deep that he possibly could on this play and torched the Bills with a 53-yard pass to Vernon Davis. That’s Randy Moss at the top of the screen, getting a cozy 5-yard cushion from his cornerback. The other receiver is well-covered, but Davis’ speed is too much for the linebackers to handle.

No shame in missing that one. Let’s try again.


Jumbo package again, but this time there are two wide receivers. It’s a clear-cut running down. We’ve been burned by this before, so we had better watch for a pass.

Wrong again. Frank Gore took a handoff over left tackle and gained 31 yards on this play.

Discouraged yet? Don’t give up hope. Let’s try one more time.


Already in a hole due to a false start penalty, the 49ers could be looking to pass here. Make sure that the coverage on the wide receivers is tight and watch for a run up the middle, just in case.

Wrong on both accounts. This was an end around to Kyle Williams, who’s lined up in the slot.


This is a particularly clever design by Roman.

Just before the ball is snapped, Smith motions fullback Bruce Miller two steps over to his right. This draws the safety in, looking run all the way, and Smith fakes the handoff to Frank Gore. Meanwhile, Kyle Williams comes around the back end and takes the toss for a 6-yard gain. Notice how the Bills’ right middle linebacker is already cheating to his left, accounting for the run, but that leaves him a step behind when he tries to catch Williams. Roman has called these kinds of end arounds before, but rarely has he called a slot receiver’s number on one. He has a new wrinkle for defensive coordinators every week.

Another highlight from Roman’s week: Kyle Williams’ 43-yard touchdown reception

The Bills stacked eight men in the box and cheated their safeties up on this play, believing that the 49ers would run on 1st-and-10. Instead, they got torched by Kyle Williams and Alex Smith.

Roman may have seen this game as a perfect opportunity take advantage of the Bills’ defensive deficiencies. Many of their offensive plays, whether run or pass, were run out of the jumbo sets. By completing deep passes out of those formations, he may have scored Frank Gore some room to run in the future.

Crab eats Buffalo for lunch


Check out this play call: three receivers appear to be running deep routes and the Bills’ defenders have cheated back to compensate. That’s Michael Crabtree (sloppily circled by me) running an underneath route. He catches the pass, while the deep-running wideouts proceed to block the Bills defenders. Roman designed this play for that reason, basically calling a screen pass 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

The emergence of the 49ers’ deep passing game should add a whole new headache for Giants’ defensive coordinator Perry Fewell this week. What’s more, he won’t be able to clearly identify what type of play to prepare for depending on formations, because the 49ers will run the ball out of the spread and pass it out of the jumbo all the same.

Roman’s offensive mastery isn’t just shown by how he uses Colin Kaepernick — it’s in his pre-snap sets, too.