The 49ers 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints all but assured that San Francisco will be playing for no higher than a fifth seed the rest of the season. At 6-4, they are simply too far behind the 10-1 Seattle Seahawks to make up the ground they would need to with only six games remaining. The worst part of the loss was that, despite playing terribly on offense, the 49ers had multiple opportunities to win the game. Here is what 49ers fans are talking about after Week 11.
Ahmad Brooks described it perfectly.
"I'm going full speed and he (Brees) is going full speed. And at the last second, he ducked his shoulder. So I don't think I could have done anything differently."
When you look at the view of the play referee Tony Corrente had, it appeared that all he could see was Drew Bress' head snap back. At full speed, and with Brooks engulfing the barely 6'0 quarterback, the hit probably looked a lot worse than it actually was. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, this is the way NFL games are officiated in this new era of player safety.
In reality, Brooks got more of Brees' shoulder than anything else and Corrente, who does have leeway in making this kind of call, threw a game changing flag that not only cost the 49ers the win, but most likely any chance at the NFC West.
Where to start? For the second week in a row, the 49ers failed to tally 200 total yards of offense. They ran for a season low 81 yards against a team whose rushing defense came into the game tied for last in the NFL with an average of 5.0 yards allowed per carry. Frank Gore, the team's offensive lynch pin, only carried the ball 13 times in what might have been the biggest game of the year to date.
Mistakes? There were almost too many to mention. The coaching staff challenged plays that didn't seem close, there were pass protection breakdowns, issues with the play clock (again), and an interception that should have been returned for a touchdown. Gore dropped a pass in the fourth quarter that was at worst a huge gain and may have even been a touchdown.
The truth of the matter is that the coaching staff looks just as lost as the quarterback. Greg Roman and Jim Harbaugh have failed to make the proper adjustments in the passing game and the team has been unable to sustain any kind of a drive. This lack of production was a big reason why the Saints won the time of possession battle by over nine minutes.
In a league where the rules are tailored to help teams throw the ball, the 49ers have failed to break the 200 yard passing mark in eight of their last nine games. Taking away his 412 yards in Week 1, Kaepernick is averaging 154 yards passing and only completing 53 percent of his passes. Looking deeper, he's thrown for 150 yards or less in five of ten games this season. That's not just remedial, it's almost non-functional.
A lot has been made about the receivers not getting open and that argument does hold some merit. The bottom line though, is that Kaepernick is struggling to see the whole field and not giving his receivers opportunities to make plays in single coverage. He' still freezing in the pocket, making his offense line look worse than it actually is. Granted, the line has played spotty, but Kaepernick has not done a good job of getting rid of the ball or reading the defense pre-snap.
If not for two turnovers that gave the 49ers a short field, they probably would not have scored a touchdown for the second week in a row. It's difficult to see how this team can contend, or even make the playoffs, with an offense playing as badly as it is at the moment.
Defense did it's job
The Saints offense had been absolutely dominate in the Superdome. New Orleans came into Week 11 averaging 35 points per game at home and Brees had thrown 18 touchdown pass to only two interceptions. On Sunday, the 49ers kept them in check by holding Brees to one touchdown throw and the team to only 23 points. When you consider the Saints got one of their touchdowns on a drive that started on the San Francisco 21 yard line, the performance looks even better.
Kudos should go out to Ahmad Brooks who is playing at a pro bowl level this season. Coming off of a three sack performance in Week 10, Brooks had an interception that set up one of his team's touchdowns and his "could have been" sack and forced fumble would have sealed the victory for San Francisco.
How to lose a game in two plays
Without getting into the abysmal offensive performance at the end of the game, you can look at errors the 49ers made down the stretch that championship caliber teams shouldn't make. The first was on 3rd and 19 with 1:56 remaining. The Saints had one timeout left and Kaepernick was flushed out of the pocket. He took off an tried to run for the first down but came up short. Instead of staying in the field of play and taking more time off of the clock or forcing the Saints to use their last timeout, Kaepernick ran out of bounds preserving precious seconds. Kaepernick would later say he was trying to turn the corner to pick up the first down.
It would only get worse on the next play when Kassim Osgood was called for illegal contact (or actually tackling a returner who signaled for a fair catch). Osgood apparently didn't see the fair catch signal, but the penalty was inexcusable none the less. The Saints started the drive at their own 40 yards line and rest is history.
Can the 49ers turn this around? They have the talent to do so, but issues within the offense run deep. There is a chance that Michael Crabtree could return to the lineup in time for the Week 12 matchup with the Redskins Monday night in Washington, but the receiver could be limited initially. With or without Crabtree, the final six weeks of the season will be critical in evaluating the offense and whether or not changes need to be made.
Date: November 19, 2013 at 5:22 PM
Comment: Kaep needs to learn how to throw the ball away without getting an intentional grounding call.
Date: November 19, 2013 at 5:17 AM
Comment: Kaepernick's confidence looks as though it has been stripped away by Roman's Jimmy Raye style play-calling, and as with Alex Smith during the dark days of the Raye offence, we can see what damaged confidence does to a QB. We started what looked like every drive with a run on 1st down, now I think running on 1st down is a good strategy as it keeps the clock running, but Roman, was running the same godd**n play with Gore up the gut.
Roman and Harbaugh need to take a long look at the offence, in particular the passing game and build Kaep's confidence back up with short and intermediate throws when creating mis-matches. If you haven't got WR's put LMJ, Gore and Dixon/Miller in the backfield and send them out on swing patterns or short passes in the flat. Use Boldin and Baldwin on quick outs or slants across the middle. Boldin will get open, and Baldwin will compete with CB's for jump balls. Keep the defence honest by using VD going long. Hell, I've not even mentioned Crabtree, Manningham or Hunter. As for the O-line, if you start using short play action passes (which we really don't seem to be doing anymore) no one is going to put 8 in the box. So frustrated.
Date: November 18, 2013 at 6:29 PM
Comment: Thanks again for the great article Uncle Al. Kappy has it rough. His receivers are non-existent EXCEPT Boldin and at times (when he decides not to P(_)SS out) Vernon Davis. His offensive coordinator gives him way too much leeway AND calls STUPID plays that often repeat ad nauseum. Imagine going to work everyday and having some porker of an offensive coordinator remind you constantly not to dare step out of the pocket, that pump faking is a thing of the past, that the pistol and play action are already beaten, and that you must stay in the pocket at all costs. Imagine then the media and the fan base BEATING down on you. Just imagine this kid that loves football and wants to play the "good" game having to deal with all this cr@p. Bill Walsh never tried to change Montana or Rice. He found something that worked and he encouraged it. Hell he built and improved upon an offense (he created) that many in the NFL emulate today. Just let Kappy do what he does. If every play breaks down and he has to scramble for 20 yards we would be better off than we are now. And lastly, if you can't take a HIT then get OFF the field. The pussification of a nation... soon it will be the NPL.
Date: November 18, 2013 at 3:09 PM
Comment: The truth is that if we want a great offense we need a great QB. As simple as that and our last great QB was Steve Young which means that we have 14 years with mediocre and bad QB's. I know that Roman has a big blame on this but we can have the best OC ever and it wouldn't matter because Kaepernick can't see beyond his first option
Date: November 18, 2013 at 1:54 PM
Comment: No doubt the niners have looked bad in the offence but, to fight the reffs in New Orleans? Some serious homecooking. Look at the calls they didn't make against the Saints. A face mask,big time holding, and at some
pass interrfiernce too boot! The league is a joke. Its starting to look like wrestling.
Date: November 18, 2013 at 1:05 PM
The offense was mostly a mess...saw glimpses of last year's Kap in a few of his throws, but also saw indecisiveness and confusion on his face. It's not all his fault...other than a stretch when Boldin was lighting it up, and Vernon's TD catch, his receivers weren't helping him out much. He did make some bad throws, too. The playcalling was predictable, which is why the Saints were content to put an all-out pass rush on. For whatever reason, Roman doesn't call for screens, draws or quick passes to the RB's. All those things can help slow down the pass rush. The OL struggled to create creases for Gore against another good team. ST's made two glaring errors: the 82 yd KO return and Osgood's bonehead play toward the end. Outside of Brooks' efforts, the defense was just decent...considering the Saints' RB's avg 4 yds a carry. The D couldn't stop Brees on the final drive...he seemingly had all day to pick out a receiver. Coaching was bad...very poor clock management and questionable challenges. Niner fans have to be asking the question, is this really a legitimate playoff team. I guess we'll find out.
By: Paul A.
Date: November 18, 2013 at 12:48 PM
Nice work, distrubing content.
I want to make this short, I agree with 99% of your artical.
Can the team turn it around? Any thing is possible, but to play championship, read SB, football is not in the cards this year.
They are lacking championship talent in the most important position ,the QB. He has a body of work this year that quantifies that statement. 154 yds per game,150 yards in 5 of 10 games. Almost non-funtional!
I know there are those who talk about his other-worldly size, speed etc. but all one has to do is look at Drew Breeze to know that none of that is what makes a championship QB!
The Greats all have "it" ,the intangible that sport phycologists have filled libraries trying identify.
The example that stands out is that between Drew Breeze and Philp Rivers . Phil has all the physical advantages but Drew has "it"!
You can coach until the cows come home ,but you can not coach "it'.
By: Zach amin
Date: November 18, 2013 at 11:50 AM
Comment: Kaepersh*t and Roman are Big failures. 49ers have enough offensive talent to win games but Kaepersh*t and Roman are holding the team back. They are back to Mike Nolan era when we were just one step short to win games.
I don't believe 49ers is capable of making to even wild card game. We are done for the season. Getting ready get humiliated again against Seachickens. Kaepernick and Roman are largely responsible for players injuries on both side of the game. He needs to be Benched now not later.
It is very obvious that 49ers made the biggest mistake by letting go fo Alex Smith. They are also keep making mistakes in drafting good offensive talent. They don't care about addressing the need of vertical threat receiver. Crabtree can't contribute if his QB couldn't find his wide open receivers.