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49ers Monday Morning Chatter Week 3: Offense is offensive

Al Sacco
Sep 22, 2013 at 5:49 PM21

For the first time under Jim Harbuagh, the 49ers have lost back to back games as they were beaten badly by the Colts 27-7 in Week 3. Also for the first time under Harbaugh, the team looks like a disaster as the offense was barely competitive for the second week in a row. There are real question marks in San Francisco right now and the team looks nothing like the playoff contenter most thought it would be coming into the season.

Vernon Davis was missed

Anyone who has ever doubted what Vernon Davis means to the 49er offense only has to turn on the game film of this loss to realize how important he is. Even when Davis isn't filling up the stat sheet, just his presense in the lineup commands the attention of the defense. Because the opposing defenders have to account for Davis at all times, it allows other players to get open and make plays. Without him against the Colts, the other 49er receiving options could not get any separation from an Indy secondary that was torched at home by Ryan Tannehill in Week 2 for 319 yards.

Lack of options at receiver

The 49ers simply do not have an effective wide receiver opposite Anquan Boldin. While Kyle Williams is a nice role player, he has not proven to be starting material. In the first three games of the year, Williams only has nine receptions for 87 yards. Beyond Williams, Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton have one catch combined (Moore) for six yards. In the past two weeks, all 49er wide receivers have 13 catches for 131 yards and no touchdowns.

This probably shouldn't come as a surprise given the track records of Williams and Moore. The two only have 47 career catches combined and have at no point in their careers distinguished themselves as legitimate NFL first teamers. While Patton has underwhelmed so far, it's not realistic to think a rookie who was taken in the fourth round would make an immediate impact. The 49ers have to figure something out though, and soon, or the woes in the passing game will continue.

Gore needs to be focal point

It's inexcusable that in a game that was 13-7 going into the fourth quarter that Frank Gore only had 11 carries. The Colts came into the game with the sixth worse rushing defense in the league having given up 272 yards over the first two weeks. The 49ers gained 115 yards as a team on 23 attempts but 7 of those were Kaepernick scrambles or runs. That means they only handed the ball to their backs 16 times.

With the passing game struggling, the offense should have been centered around Gore and Hunter. Instead, Greg Roman continues to appear like he wants the 49ers to be something their not which is confusing considering their approach and commitment to the run the past two seasons.

Kaepernick's play is concerning

It's entirely possible that there really is no one open and 49er receivers can't gain separation. It could be that even Peyton Manning would have trouble moving the ball with only Anquan Boldin as a real option. All of that could be true, but it does not change the fact that Colin Kaepernick has been terrible over his last two starts.

Kaepernick continues to look indecisive and does not appear to be seeing the whole field. When plays break down, he's at times trying to force throws instead of using his legs and has left first downs on the field because of it. Against the Colts, Kaepernick only threw for 150 yards and that stat line is generous considering how much of it was in garbage time. He is 26 of 55 (47 percent) with 277 yards and no touchdowns the last two weeks. He has been intercepted four times over that span as well. We all knew (or should have) that there were going to be some bumps in the road this season as Kaepernick matured but I'm not sure anyone could have seen this coming.

Luck a cut above the rest

For all of the talk about Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, and Robert Griffin in the media, it's sometimes easy to forget that Luck is better than all of them. He took an inferior Colts team on the road in week 3 and executed his game plan perfectly. Luck's stats were not eye popping (164 yards passing and one rushing touchdown) but he kept the chains moving and kept the 49er defense on the field. The Colts dominated the time of possession and held the ball for over 36 minutes.

Defense needs a game changer

For most of the game, the 49er defense did enough to win. They kept the score close but got no help from the offense who could not sustain any kind of drive. While the defense is still one of the better units in the NFL, they lack two main components that had made them elite in the past. The first is a consistent pass rush from anyone not named Aldon Smith. The 49ers have seven sacks through three games and Aldon has 3.5 of them. No other player has more than one. Because of that, there seem to be long stretches when oppossing quarterbacks have clean pockets and more than enough time to make their reads.

The second component they lack is forcing turnovers. Eric Reid is the only 49er with an interception (he has two) and the defense is not making game changing plays that swing momentum. That could be directly related to the lack of consistent pressure but a short field or two would do a lot in helping the offense get some easy points.

What's next?

The 49ers have to try and get things figured out on a short week as they play the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night. If Davis is not able to suit up expect some of the same problems to show up on offense. The Rams gave the 49ers fits last season and the game has, unexpectedly, become a must win for a reeling Niner's squad.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Ceadderman
    I don't get it, Smith throws the occasional Pass in the dirt and he gets more venom from fans than Kappy does and Kappy's last two games he was consistently throwing the ball in the dirt. I get it that he's trying to keep the ball down where only the Receiver can catch it but he doesn't do the Offense any favors. Receivers cannot get YAC if they are laying on the ground after attempting to catch a Pass. I will not ever say that Smith was perfect, cause he wasn't but before he got concussed and demoted, he was keeping the chains moving. All I saw after the lone long drive Sunday was a myriad of 3 and outs and Candlestick would've been a smoking pile of rubble from the fans if that were Alex Smith Starting in that game. I do agree tho that losing Davis due to the Hammy sure didn't help, but there were a number of Passes hitting the dirt that made it near impossible for any receiver to convert and gain drive sustaining yardage from. I like Kappy and I sure hope that this is just a minor setback, but I am not inspired by his play. He wants to tuck and run it so bad that he doesn't hit his third read and as soon as he brings it down the Defense pins their ears back. Needs to stop that.
    Sep 24, 2013 at 2:45 PM
  • Monsterniner
    Colin is a better athlete with a better arm and fast legs but our offense was better with Alex because with him at the helm our offense was more balanced and used to play at its full strenght which was a power running offense with some WCO in the passing game but now Harbaugh and Roman are trying to change the identity of this offense with this transition to a pass happy team and guess what..........we only have one good WR and a QB that only has 13 starts in his career. If we want to come back in this season we need to remember how beautiful our running game was in 2011 and the first half of 2012 and how simple and effective our passing game was. Forget about Colin's arm for now. Just focus in one thing: do what we do best.
    Sep 24, 2013 at 12:06 AM
  • Gonzola
    Keep the faith Niner Nation. We will still win games this season no doubt. We will be 2-2 by Thursday midnight and then on to 3-2, etc. All is not lost by any stretch, but someone better rack some heads on offense (i.e. play calling). Kappy will be a product of Harbaugh just as Luck is already a product of Coach H. Kappy is a great quarterback, BUT he can only do so much when the play calls for X, but he is built for Y. The pistol offense was an answer to a problem in college football. Now that problem is solved so we need to move on and solve THIS current problem. We need problem solvers -- we need innovators (i.e. Bill Walsh and now a contemporary like Greg Ault, etc.) not Roman's brand of "safe" football. We need Eddie D! Come on YORK break some b@l/s and get us an offensive coordinator that uses our assets. Possession football and utilize the RUN, the option, Krazy legs himself, and find a way to use receivers that have trouble catching. Then again what would it take to let Chuck Jacobs have some playing time--he can't be worse than the receivers we already have (exempting Boldin)? Kappy is an underdog player and he will rise; he, like Gore, just needs decent play calling.
    Sep 23, 2013 at 3:26 PM
  • ken
    The 49ers need to get rid of that elementary pistol offense! Make a trade for a big time reciever and go out and get a big 350lb nose takle and they will be back on top.
    Sep 23, 2013 at 11:38 AM
  • Tom
    Not to bring up old issues but going back to last year I always thought that the 49ers played better as a TEAM with Smith under center. There is no doubt that Kaepernick is the superior athlete and has a better arm than Smith will ever have, but now it seems that the team lives or dies offensively on how well he plays where with Smith, perhaps because of his limitations, the offense seemed more balanced. The running game, except for Kaepernick's contributions has been falling off ever since he took over.
    Sep 23, 2013 at 11:17 AM
    Response: I think this is a great point Tom and I've been thinking about doing an article on it actually. The offense, with Smith, was balanced and built on a run first philosophy. I think they are building around one player now which could be dangerous especially when the player has such a small sample size.
  • charles
    The Niners missed Alex Smith.. Colin is overrated.
    Sep 23, 2013 at 9:56 AM
  • Geno
    Faced with continuing blitzes and a spy on Kap at all times do you think that maybe a few screens to Gore and some quick slants might be considered. The offensive coordinator seems to have no clue about what to do.
    Sep 23, 2013 at 9:54 AM
  • Jersey9er
    I think many of us have to just come to grips with this isn't the same 13-3 niners, not even last seasons niners. With the QB change, we lost some offensive pieces, defensive pieces, etc. On offense in years past, we are a run first team, then sprinkle in the QB. Has worked since Harbs was here. Now with Kaep, lets be honest, because he can potentially do so much more than the last starting QB, we are trying to build around him. Make him the focal point, and become that passing team to put up big numbers because he has the arm, and legs to make things happen, and sprinkle in some run. Not too early to panic as its 1-2, not 0-3, but we all have to realize that this isnt the same niners, so we can't avoid the fact in seeing a little struggle early on. Just have to be patient, and hope Harb's gets his wish, and turning Kaep into that top 5 QB, that everyone fell in love with after the SB loss. There are other QB's that have nothing on the receiving end, but Kaep's also the starter, because he has the gift of turning nothing into something. We'll get it together I hope.
    Sep 23, 2013 at 9:53 AM
  • DW
    Last week was the Battle in Seattle. Get ready for the Slaughter in St. Louis. I guess the baugh has kind of strayed away from the blue collar mentality. Seems more like the Hollywood mentality. I don`t know of any other team that has so many players and the head coach being behind the camera so much. Bowman was even on some tv show. We used to punch people in the mouth and take their lunch money. Not any more. Now its lets all be actors. No wonder Nnamdi picked the niners. Somebody around 4949 better whip those blue shirts out of moth balls FAST!
    Sep 23, 2013 at 9:40 AM
  • Dallas Niner Fan
    Not trying to make excuses, but lets keep things in perspective. First, its very early in the season. Second, the Niners had a really tough opening schdule againest 3 playoff teams and a tough game on the road againest Seattle, I would argue the toughest in the league. Third, look at all the injuries, we lost Crabtree before the season even started, now there dropping like flys. The Niners were always lucky with few injuries in the past now the law of averages are catching up with them. I predicted after the Niners lost Crabtree and with their tough schdule they would have 10 wins. So, no excuses, but at the same time lets not panic yet. I think that they will come back as the schdule gets lighter and some of the injured return.
    Sep 23, 2013 at 7:49 AM
  • liono
    1-3 here we come!
    Sep 23, 2013 at 7:41 AM
  • joe
    The Colts secondary got worked the week prior by a QB whose name most people wouldn't even recognize. The 9ers are bad, really bad. This could very easily be a 4 win season.
    Sep 23, 2013 at 7:09 AM
    Watching the first three games I also think that we are missing the skills of Walker much more than anyone had predicted. He was a monster blocker and a legit recieving threat. McDonald looks the part, but he will need to be more involved going forward.
    Sep 23, 2013 at 6:56 AM
  • Gonzola
    Thanks AL! Always knew this would be the 9ers most difficult. Should be downhill from here. The colts are VERY underrated. Luck is a masterpiece. The defense can not be expected to win games ALL the time. They play an ungodly # of thankless snaps and keep the game low scoring. I mean how many field goals did Vina make? On the other hand our team could NOT even get into field goal range? Why on 1st and 10 is Kappy not given short options and long options? You need to use the whole field in order to free Kappy up to do his work. So on 1st and 10, 2nd and 7 give him a receiver or two at 40-60 yards and give him a couple receivers underneath. I saw NONE of this!!!! You NEED to keep things OPEN. That way Vance can duck in the middle when it is left gaping. Gore or Kappy can show them the shuffle should they send defenders too deep. On the flipside if the defenders tuck in and crowd the tackle box and shut down anything less than 20 yards then you make them pay for it with a 60-yard master class in how to throw a football. Calling dumb@$ throwing plays with 4 receivers within 10-20 yards the entire game is ridiculous. Fire Roman. Hire Greg Ault.
    Sep 23, 2013 at 6:52 AM
  • AJ Dembroski
    13 touches for Gore is inexcusable. I think they're getting out coached more than anything, and I think it's because they've abandoned what got them where they are. I said before in response to another article: rather than opening up the offense with Kaep, they've closed it in around him, abandoning the power running game that's made them dominant the last two years. The boom-or-bust style, using Kaep's arm and legs, has lead to the defense being on the field more, the offensive line not being played to its strengths, more turnovers, and ultimately, a less complete team.
    Sep 22, 2013 at 9:36 PM
    Response: I think that's a fair point. They've gone from building a team oriented offense to centering around one player which is always dangerous. Especially when that player doesn't even have a full season under his belt
  • David
    Why do people keep talking about how nobody is open? This is the NFL, receivers are not gonna be running free. You have to throw them open. That's what good qb's do. I think it was Steve Young who said the difference between college and the pros is that in college everybody is open and in the pros nobody is open.
    Sep 22, 2013 at 9:15 PM
    Response: It's probably a mix. Kaepernick is hesitant for some reason now though. He did a good job a throwing into tight windows at time last year. He just looks skiddish now.
  • Karlos
    They better get back to a winning way Thursday aganist the Rams.
    Sep 22, 2013 at 8:43 PM
  • T bone
    Seems like the Niner's ears are still ringing from their visit to Seattle!
    Sep 22, 2013 at 8:07 PM
  • J .T McEntyre
    The niners management replaced Alex Smith last year too quickly with KAPERNICK .He's still have to go through growing pains that Smith went through. Look at Alex Smith's Kansas City Chiefs Win ,Loss record and DO the MATH . If Smith would of QBed The SUPER BOWL WE WOULD PROBABLY HAVE ANOTHER RING. SMITH WAS A SEASONED VET BY THEN
    Sep 22, 2013 at 7:36 PM
  • Chanto
    This game was terrible. 9ers have to go back to basics: run the ball, possesion, possesion, possesion. I agree, FG21 has to be the leader of the offense. Give him the ball for God sake! CK7 performance is alarming. Sure he is missing some help from receiving corps, but he threw some terrible balls. I really hope PW52 gets sell, because the D is already diminished. And... Stop making penalties!
    Sep 22, 2013 at 7:35 PM
  • David
    "Luck took an inferior Colts team..."? Looks to me like the niners are the inferior team.
    Sep 22, 2013 at 6:41 PM
    Response: This game was alarming for sure.

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