“We didn’t make plays, and there wasn’t enough opportunities to make plays,” the coach said.
He wouldn’t acknowledge the 49ers lack of play-making wide receivers had anything to do with the offensive ineptitude, but it became evident amidst the team’s seven punts that the injury bug has finally caught up with this team, and more specifically, this offense. Colin Kaepernick went 13-for-27 for 150 yards and another late-game interception, but Anquan Boldin accounted for five of his completions and even more of his targets. The second leading 49ers receiver? Frank Gore, with two catches for 21 yards. Kyle Williams was a non-factor (two for 12 yards) and Vance McDonald, starting for the inactive Vernon Davis, caught only one pass for 6 yards, leaving little doubt the 49ers could have used Davis’s services against the Colts.
They were kept stagnated for almost 60 minutes of football by a defense that ranks in the cellars of the NFL and still feels confident enough to stack eight in the box on a 49ers’ third-and-long.
The running game was the logical starting point for San Francisco to build a foundation, but the inconsistency of Greg Roman’s play-calling damned several of the 49ers’ drives. Frank Gore opened the offense up with a seven-yard run, but Roman’s sequence to follow was a pass to Williams that fell incomplete and a stretch run for Hunter that fell short of the first down.
San Francisco’s second drive was when they did establish the run, and Gore did what we’ve all been waiting for: he collected runs of 22, 11 and 21 yards en route to the 49ers only scoring play of the entire game — an 11-yard draw from Hunter.
Then Gore’s involvement in the offense went missing again and Roman got a little too creative for his own good, calling a crackback run to Hunter and a toss to Anthony Dixon, both of which produced nothing on important third downs later in the game.
“[We] haven’t been getting those drives, making those plays. Too many three and outs. We aren’t getting in those types of rhythms,” Gore said, when asked about the offense’s struggles.
“When things are not going right you get frustrated. But I think the game kind of got different in the second half and we had to do what we had to do, just throw the ball,” Gore said.
Although they didn’t have to throw the ball. It was still a one-score game deep into the fourth quarter, but the 49ers abandoned what was working long before the Colts extended their lead.
In all, the 49ers’ offense was as anemic as they were last Sunday evening in Seattle, except this time they weren’t playing one of the fiercest defenses in football. San Francisco’s defense actually kept the 49ers hanging around until late in the fourth quarter, when two penalties extended a Colts’ drive that ended in an Andrew Luck bootleg touchdown and essentially put the game out of reach.
So most of the questions I asked this morning are still left unanswered.
- The 49ers have not found Michael Crabtree’s replacement, and barring some Irsay-ean trade, they probably won’t have one until Crabtree is actually back.
- Gore is still Gore and the offensive line can still block, but the running game won’t be a factor as long as their is no passing game to speak of.
- The secondary played pretty impressively, holding Luck to only 164 yards and no passing touchdowns.
- And the 49ers’ front is going to need some help shortly.
Those who are looking for the team to take action regarding Aldon Smith’s situation got their first sign of movement when ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweeted this out this morning:
Aldon Smith could not be suspended by 49ers under CBA; consensus is get Smith to treatment once they get thru weekend. Help the young man.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) September 22, 2013
Harbaugh was asked about sending Smith to a rehabilitation center, but only said “We’ll address that.” Shortly after the locker room opened though, Smith stepped in front of his locker for a statement:
First off, I wanted to apologize to the team, the organization, my family and everybody I let down. I also wanted to let it be known that this is a problem and it’s something that I will get fixed, and that I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that this never happens again. I also wanted to let everybody know that once again I’m sorry and, like I said, this won’t happen again.
While Smith didn’t say anything specifically about drugs, alcohol or treatment, he did say something that stuck out immediately to me:
“This is a problem and it’s something that I will get fixed.”
It’s a common cliche — “the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem” — but there’s more credence to it than we probably give. Don’t underestimate the power of having to step in front of a sea of cameras and staring faces and admit you have a problem — a problem you were probably trying to pretend didn’t exist just three or four days ago.
Jed York addressed the media in front of Smith’s locker next, saying he will not play against the Rams. He also didn’t back down from the team’s decision to play Smith despite having just committed such a serious offense just days ago.
“Paying them to sit down when they are going to seek treatment in the future, that didn’t seem like the appropriate punishment,” York said. “I know it may not sound reasonable but for Aldon to face the media, face his teammates, and take full responsibility for what he’s doing, we felt that was the best decision for Aldon himself, and the team and ultimately for the community at large.”
And here’s where I’ll stop buying what York is selling, because to suggest the decision to play Smith had to do with anything other than winning a football game is insulting. Smith is one of the best defensive players in the NFL, and while he may be in rehab tomorrow, his playing today ultimately did very little for the team.
— The game opened up with a Donte Whitner hit on Ahmad Bradshaw that looked a whole lot like the one he put on Pierre Thomas against the Saints in 2011. Bradshaw lowered his entire body as Whitner squared up his shoulder towards what ended up being his helmet. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, and he wasn’t too happy about it after the game.
“It was a bad call,” Whitner said. “I guess any big hit in the National Football League is automatically flagged.”
— The 49ers spotted the Colts with two penalties for 24 yards on the first two plays of the opening drive alone. It ended with Trent Richardson’s first carry as a Colt: a one-yard touchdown run.
— Patrick Willis went down with a groin injury and didn’t return. Harbaugh, of course, had nothing to share about his condition.
— This is the first time the 49ers have lost two games in a row since Weeks 15 and 16 of 2010, right before Mike Singletary was fired.
— This was also my first game in the press box of Candlestick Park, a stadium I grew up attending and watching 49ers and Giants games in. I’ve got to say thanks to BASG for allowing me to write for his website and accomplish this goal. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do since elementary school.
— Okay, all nostalgia aside, I can’t wait to see what the Levi’s Stadium press box is going to look like. I’m sure I’m not the only one.