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Grant Cohn: Seattle's noise makes 49ers' play-calling methods ineffective

  • Seattle's '12th man' experience creates a din that can affect visiting teams. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

SANTA CLARA – Jim Harbaugh must change his offensive play-calling system this week for the 49ers' game Sunday night in Seattle against the Seahawks. Not changing his system would be an ego-driven mistake.

Harbaugh wants to be perfect on every play. As a result, his system is one of the slowest in the NFL.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman typically calls not one but two wordy plays over the headset for Colin Kaepernick. Then Kaepernick repeats those plays to his teammates in the huddle. Then the players run to the line of scrimmage. Then Kaepernick has to work through multiple pre-snap procedures and shifts and movements and kills to determine which of the two plays is better. This process usually takes between nine and 13 seconds.

If the offense has fewer than 14 seconds at the line, it's difficult to work through the pre-snap stuff and snap the ball before the play clock reads zero.

Last week at Candlestick Park against the Packers, the 49ers often snapped the ball with just two or three seconds left on the clock. They were flagged for a delay-of-game penalty and burned two timeouts preventing two more delays. They got to the line with fewer than 14 seconds on the clock 19 times, almost a third of their plays. That means Greg Roman wasn't getting the plays in to Kaepernick fast enough. Don't blame Kaepernick because it wasn't his fault.

If the 49ers can't get their plays off in Candlestick, how are they going to get them off in Seattle's CenturyLink Field, the NFL's loudest stadium?

Anquan Boldin doesn't think it will be an issue. On Wednesday he called the timeouts and delay-of-game penalties a “Week 1 problem.”

Is it merely a Week 1 problem?

Last season, the 49ers called 14 timeouts in the first and third quarters, the quarters in which you don't want to call timeouts. The 49ers led the league in the category. Boldin may not be aware of that stat because he was a Raven last season.

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