Linebacker Patrick Willis
I have a shocking admission to make: I’m ready to give credit where credit is due. The Carolina Panthers defense might be better, all-around, than our San Francisco 49ers defense is. And that’s saying something.
Now that I’ve said something nice, could we get back to ripping Colin Kaepernick and Company? Zero stars.
See, it wasn’t just that the 49ers got edged 10-9 by the Panthers at Candlestick Park this weekend. Although they got wide receiver Mario Manningham back (he suffered an ACL tear in his left knee in 2012), the team still couldn’t manage a whisper of offense. The problems start at the top with horrendous play-calling, and trickled down to the field.
For some reason, the running game was abandoned despite a successful first quarter. That left Kaepernick, constantly scrambling against heavy blitzing, to make forced throws. Forced throws are bad throws. And bad throws end up on the ground, or worse, in the wrong team’s hands. Kap went 11 for 22 with one interception, for just 91 yards.
And yet. And yet, with all of that horrendous play calling and passing, the Niners still had a chance at the very end of the game. The 49ers were down 10-9 with possession of the ball in the final minute of the game. What a chance for a comeback, right? Wrong.
With the last gasp drive at the end, Kaepernick rolled right and threw a wobbly lob into quadruple (yes, quadruple!) coverage. Our two receivers had no chance. The pass was intercepted, the team's fate sealed, and the divisional gap between the hated Seattle Seahawks and our Niners expanded. In a game that saw four field goals, one touchdown (how many 49ers does it take to bring down a mediocre running back? Apparently all 11 on the field, and then not even), and just 19 total points, the 49ers managed to dink and dunk their way into a loss they couldn’t afford.
I’m no NFL coach, but when your idea of a drive begins and ends with the same ineffective, gadgety plays, and you never make an adjustment the entire game, you’re going to lose. Every time.
Look, I get it. Kaepernick is athletic and talented and brash and everything that goes with it. But the play-action rollout triple button hook screen pass flea flicker behind a cutesy staggered formation doesn’t work against elite defenses. I just wish Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff figured that out before the clock hit zero in San Francisco this weekend.
Maybe we should go back to a standard West Coast format where the quarterback takes the snap, drops back into the pocket, and throws a pass. Amazing concept, huh? God forbid we waste that athleticism of Kaepernick’s and relegate ourselves to the scrubby offensive style of someone like Alex Smith.
Who is leading a 9-0 team. By the way.