SANTA CLARA -- Who says NFL offseason minicamps are boring? This week at the 49ers facility, we might have learned why the team's goal line offense didn't succeed on that final Super Bowl drive.
Granted, that could be erroneously connecting some speculative dots. But you do have to wonder.
I know this much: It definitely raised some eyebrows before Wednesday's practice when new free-agent safety Craig Dahl revealed that his former team, the St. Louis Rams, was very successful last season at sleuthing out some 49ers offensive tendencies.
"We had a few tips off of film," Dahl told a gaggle of reporters. "We were able to differentiate between run and pass early. That kind of gave us an added benefit on defense. ... It was something that had been brought forth by the coaches. But more study by the players in game situations proved it to be true."
Hmmmm. That could help explain a few things. It could explain why the Rams, despite their 7-8-1 record in 2012, never lost to the 49ers.
It could explain why the teams played to a 24-24 tie in November and why the Rams won 16-13 in a December rematch.
And, yes, it might even partially explain why the 49ers couldn't push across a go-ahead touchdown from the 7-yard line on their final four offensive downs of the Super Bowl against Baltimore. In that sequence, the 49ers ran on first down (LaMichael James was stuffed after a 2-yard gain) and then called three straight pass plays. All the throws went to Michael Crabtree and were incomplete.
On those three pass attempts, Crabtree was well-covered by Ravens defenders while Baltimore pass-rushers ignored the run on the last two downs in particular, almost as if they knew what was ... nah, let's not go there. It's still too painful for 49ers fans. It doesn't matter now, anyway.
And it won't happen again. Dahl said Wednesday that after signing with the 49ers, he met with coaches to discuss the offensive-formation "tips" that had benefitted St. Louis.
"It's been addressed and corrected," Dahl said as he stood beside the practice field. "They knew most of it before I even got here. We just reconfirmed it. ... Different personnel and different alignment stuff really were the big keys as far as giveaways."
And then Dahl returned to the 49ers locker room, leaving me to contemplate the bigger truth proved by his generous recollection:
Because the NFL is a popular and monstrous sporting force, we make way too big of a deal of each team's offseason practices (OTAs) and minicamps such as the ones occurring here this week. But we probably don't make a big enough deal about the genuinely important stuff that happens between the end of one season and the start of July training camp.
All that important stuff, you see, happens inside the building. It involves the discussions such as the one between Dahl and the coaches, as they review the previous season and delineate lessons learned. Without the pressure of an upcoming game, the true work of football diagnosis and prescription can take place in an almost scholarly environment.
Want another example? Earlier this month when the 49ers announced that former Jets and Browns head coach Eric Mangini had been hired for their staff, there were head scratches all around because Mangini's vague title was "senior offensive consultant." He seemed to have no specified duties.
But upon reflection, it's become perfectly clear: Mangini's job is to be the house intellectual when it comes to scrutinizing and dissecting, particularly during this offseason period.
Something else: It couldn't have escaped the 49ers' notice that Mangini was the guy who (wittingly or unwittingly) launched the entire New England Patriots' "Spygate" scandal in 2007 by being the first coach to notice that Patriots employees were illegally videotaping the Jets' sideline defensive hand signals to match up with play-calls and gain an advantage. The man is part tactician, part James Bond.
Greg Roman, the 49ers offensive coordinator, gushed this week that he was looking forward to locking himself in a room with Mangini where they could "take one play and end up talking about it for 30 minutes because of all the different things you could branch off and talk about."
Those are the offseason NFL moments that truly would be worth covering and documenting by us media types.
Unfortunately, we're stuck with seven-on-seven drills in the sunshine. That's something. But it's only 10 percent of everything that's happening right now.
So just for fun, can we please go back and check that Super Bowl video?