Monday, September 23, 2013


One would have thought that the 49ers, coming off a game where they were not only beaten, but really humbled by the Seattle Seahawks, would respond with a performance where they took out their frustrations on the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately, this didn't happen. The Colts, who lack the defensive prowess of the Seahawks, nonetheless had their way with the 49ers, running the ball down their throats and preventing the offense from getting any sort of momentum going, eventually pulling away late and skipping town with a 27-7 victory.

Nothing good happened for the 49ers on Sunday, the second straight time I've had to say that. It's not only Colin Kaepernick's first home loss since becoming the starting Quarterback, it's also the first time under Jim Harbaugh that the 49ers have lost 2 games in a row. Their record, now 1-2, isn't at all where anyone would have figured they'd be at this point, and places them in worse standing than teams like the Jets or the Cowboys.

Injuries, something the 49ers really haven't had to deal with much over the past few years, have struck the 49ers and right now, it's catching up with them. The loss of Michael Crabtree is severely hindering Kaepernick right now, and compounded with Vernon Davis not being able to play due to last week's hamstring injury left Kap, well, hamstrung. Stuck without a real weapon at receiver, the Colts were able to jam Anquan Boldin at the line of scrimmage and stick him in tight man coverage. The other receivers, Quinton Patton, Kassim Osgood and Marcus Marcusson, were non-factors and will continue to be so unless they can prove themselves worthy of the position. More alarmingly, Kap appeared gunshy after being beaten down by the Seahawks. This is a Quarterback who threw for over 300 yards in the Super Bowl, and two weeks ago topped 400 yards, and two weeks in a row he's looked like a skittish Rookie, afraid to zing the ball into a tight target. The 49ers one Touchdown drive came primarily on the ground. If they're going to have success, Kap has to get over this fear and just throw the ball down the field. The reason the 49ers got to the Super Bowl last year is because of this, and he's got to be able to find that confidence again.

Yes, the ground game worked for the first time all season, with Gore rushing for 85 yards, or, 25 more than he'd gained to this point all season, and Kendall Hunter chipped in with a nice rushing touchdown. But the 49ers have scored 10 points in the last 2 weeks with only one of these departments working, and in general neither has really worked that well.

Defensively, the 49ers did OK, but just OK. A general lack of discipline has led to a rash of penalties, which started biting the 49ers in the ass from the very first play of the game when Donte Whitner was flagged for a helmet hit (despite the fact that the replays revealed he hit with his shoulder, not his helmet). And they were costly penalties to boot, several of which helped the Colts continue drives and control the tempo of the game. The Colts raced down the field on their opening possession of the game and scored a Touchdown. Their subsequent drives over the 2nd and 3rd quarters either resulted in Punts or Field Goals, but by continuing to run the ball and smash the 49ers in the face, they a) Controlled the clock and b) Wore down the 49ers Defense. Much like last week, the game was very much in reach after 3 quarters, with the Colts hanging on to a 13-7 lead. All it was going to take was a good, solid drive that ended in a Touchdown. But the 49ers, unable to sustain a drive, could barely move the ball past midfield, and eventually, the Colts wore the 49ers down and Andrew Luck, the former disciple of Jim Harbaugh, beat the 49ers at their own game with an Option run for a Touchdown.

Now in desperation mode, Kaepernick was sacked and fumbled the ball back to Indy, giving the Colts the opportunity to rub some salt in the wound by scoring another Touchdown to put the game out of reach. With nothing left to lose, Kap completed some passes, but ultimately a desperation drive was stopped by an end zone Interception, to finish off a wholly miserable effort.

The 49ers really need to make a concerted effort to try to get back to basics. The read option that Kaepernick excels in hasn't really been utilized that much to this point this season. Perhaps it's a bit of playing possum, but I'm hard pressed to think that Jim Harbaugh would coach that way, particularly when it's led to a couple of losses. More likely, it's just that Kaepernick doesn't have the weapons he had last year. Crabtree's injury has screwed things up more than anyone will let on, and Anquan Boldin, good as he is, is better suited as the complimentary receiver than the go-to guy. And add the loss of Vernon Davis to the mix, and all of a sudden this offense is looking kind of ordinary.

But one thing the 49ers have going for them is that Harbaugh is a good, smart coach and Kaepernick is really talented. And it's only Week 3 and there's plenty of time to right the ship. But there's a lot of room for doubt to creep in, particularly given the sprint that the season is, and the fact that Seattle junked the Jaguars to race out to a 3-0 start and a 2-game lead in the Division. One fear I've had is that this could end up being a repeat of the Mets/Phillies rivalry in '07. The 49ers were a whisker from a Championship last season and appeared universal favorites to get back. But their chief rival, Seattle, thinks they're the better team and has gone out hell bent to prove it, while the 49ers are muddling away. And we know how this turns out. The Phillies won a World Series Championship while the Mets are still trying to get their thumbs out of their asses. Hopefully this is just one of my irrational cross-sport theories that doesn't work. But the 49ers need to fix some things right now, and they've got a quick turnaround this week, as they have the high pleasure of going out to St. Louis to play the Rams on Thursday night. The Rams, who gave the 49ers all sorts of fits last year on a short week? This doesn't exactly look encouraging for the 49ers right now. 

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