Anquan Boldin SF 49ers

49ers offensive output was “unacceptable” in 10-9 loss to Panthers

Colin Kaepernick helmet off throwing 2013 training camp

The game’s last two plays (before Cam Newton took a knee to run out the clock) said it all. Here’s how it looked from the sideline, for 49ers fans out there with strong stomachs or Seahawks fans visiting the site who want to revel in the 49ers’ offensive ineptitude:

The 49ers had the ball on their own 20 with more than enough time to drive for a potential game-winning field goal. But Colin Kaepernick was sacked by Greg Hardy on first down. On the next play, Kaepernick looked like a quarterback who had been sacked six times on the day — like a guy whose head was swimming and had no answers.

He floated one down the right sideline. As you can probably tell based on the video (I was following the flight of the ball, and not all that well), I had no idea who Kaepernick was targeting. Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham were all lined up on that side of the field at the snap. Boldin ran a shorter route, and Williams was the closest 49er to Drayton Florence, who ran to the middle of the field and slid after making the interception.

But who the hell was Kaepernick targeting? I didn’t have a chance to see a replay before heading to the locker room, and no one around me had any idea either. Afterward, Kaepernick was asked: “Who was the ball going to?”

“We were trying to take a shot down the sideline. It’s desperation mode. We’re trying to get down the field to be able to kick a field goal,” he said.

That’s right, Kaepernick had no idea. On the most important play of the game, he threw a Hail Mary. That’s being kind. It was a Duck Mary. However, as terrible as the throw was, the replay shows that Williams and Manningham were close enough to reach out and touch each other near the sideline behind where the ball was intercepted — very poor spacing, meaning someone probably ran the wrong route.

“We just didn’t execute today offensively. Point blank,” Boldin said. “It’s unacceptable. We have a number of weapons on offense. We just have to do a better job of making it happen.”

The Panthers are a team that plays a rough style of football. It’s the same kind of football the 49ers are known for playing, but on this day San Francisco only succeeded in doing so on defense. The offense, especially after Vernon Davis was knocked out with a concussion, was awful. They couldn’t score a touchdown and were shut out in the second half. The offensive line couldn’t keep the Panthers out of the backfield. The 49ers passed for 46 yards, converted 2-of-13 third downs and rushed for 25 yards in the second half.

It seems like a recurring theme: Frank Gore (who finished with 82 yards on 16 carries) stops getting touches in the second half and the 49ers lose. It’s not THAT simple; Jim Harbaugh mentioned how losing Vernon Davis and Garrett Celek took them out of the two-TE packages they like to use in the run game (and led to his decision not to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Carolina 2-yard line). But Gore carried only four times in the second half and gained 21 yards. The 49ers want to conserve Gore for the playoffs, but if they can’t pass the ball they might not get there without him — especially if Vernon misses any more time.

The 49ers are 6-3, the same record as the Panthers and 2.5 games behind the Seahawks. They’ve feasted on the bad teams (and Green Bay). Against teams that have met their muscle with similar displays of power, they’ve been unable to score points.

In case you wanted to read more about this game … 

— “I was aware that I wasn’t going to play too much,” said Aldon Smith. “I don’t really call those shots. I just put my clothes on, put my cleats on and play.”

— “I learned a long time ago, you control your side of the field,” said Patrick Willis when asked if he was surprised that the offense mustered only nine points. “Today I wish we were able to do a little bit more on defense. Maybe score on defense, or … something. But I don’t point fingers, we win as a team, we lose as a team.”

I asked Willis — who had a sack, a quarterback hit and two tackles for loss — if he’s fully back now after the injuries he sustained earlier in the year. He laughed and made it sound like he’ll probably be dealing with some residual aches and pains all season from his broken hand and/or injured groin, but he’ll make no excuses.

— Eric Reid suffered a concussion due to a collision with Mike Tolbert, making that two concussions already this season. Vernon’s concussion was his second in the last calendar year, as he sustained one in Week 16 of the 2012 season in Seattle.

— Ray McDonald left the game with an ankle injury. I saw him walk out of the locker room without a limp or any sort of visible wrap on either ankle (although it’s possible his jeans could’ve been covering something).

— One thing that was odd: before Vernon left the game they never looked to stretch the field with him at any point. The 49ers seemed to bring a pass-heavy game plan into this matchup with Carolina’s dominant defensive front; maybe they were planning on unleashing their top downfield threat later in the contest.

— The 49ers had a few huge plays go against them:

  • NaVorro Bowman dropped a pass he probably should’ve intercepted. DeAngelo Williams rushed for a 27-yard touchdown on the next play.
  • Vance McDonald dropped a perfectly-thrown pass in the fourth quarter that would’ve put the 49ers in the red zone. Luke Kuechly (who had a phenomenal game) got his arm in there, but McDonald should’ve caught the pass anyway.
  • Cam Newton recovered a fumbled snap. If the 49ers get that ball, they end up about 10-15 yards away from field goal range.

— On the other side, Vernon Davis fumbled and the replay official didn’t overturn the call on the field of incomplete for whatever reason. Today’s loss wasn’t a case of the 49ers having all the breaks go against them — far from it. They failed to win this game because Carolina was better.

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Bay Area Sports Guy

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Have to disagree a bit with this post. Repeatedly trying to run the ball on 3rd and long is the main reason the Niners were stuck kicking field goals in the first half. Roman's refusal, or inability, to develop a pro-caliber passing attack is an embarrassment, and this team will not win a championship until such a glaring weakness is properly addressed. Playing to your strength should never be an excuse for not improving your weaknesses, but that seems to be the case with this team. One of the reasons I was hoping for a bold move for Gordon was that this coaching staff has not shown any aptitude for developing young receivers, and very little willingness to get young players involved, period. Why Kyle Williams was on the field in crunch time is anybody's guess- he let an important pass go right through his hands before the interception. He may be a great teammate but he is a mediocre player, who will not get any better. Of the three passes thrown his way he dropped two and had a third intercepted. This team is veering uncomfortably close to the Mariuchi era teams of "good enough" football, rather than excelling in all facets of the game, a hallmark of the championship teams. To blame the failure on poor execution is accurate but inadequate: any perfectly executed play will succeed, but this sidesteps the question of whether a better play call would have had a higher likelihood of success. Ginn is having a productive season after doing nothing for us last year- this is clearly a coaching problem. I'm reminded of Roman's lack of self-reflection when asked if he had any regrets about his play calling at the end of the Super Bowl, and he said no; after running the ball from the 8 and calling the same play twice in a row to Crab tree, he blamed it on poor execution. Really, what were the odds of scoring from the 8 against the Ravens on a run? Sure, in a perfect world we score, but the odds were heavily against us. I'm only dredging up the past because Roman is as stubborn as a mule and seems disinclined to learn from his mistakes. After a few games of creative play calling he quickly reverted to the mediocrity of games two and three. Obviously we have a great running game, but running repeatedly on third and long is not a recipe for success- our passing game is significantly worse than that of the 2000 Ravens, which was the worst passing attack to take home a championship in my lifetime. Kicking field goals is not going to get it done, and if the assistants can't coach the passing game up to respectability we need some new assistants. Sustaining drives wins championships, and arrogantly insisting that we are so good on the ground we can run it regardless of down and distance ignores that balanced teams when championships. Roman has an arrogant stubbornness to him, and it bodes I'll for our chances of winning a championship with this team. Of course maybe Roman would have frozen Gordon out of the offense anyway- he clearly loves the idea of being predictable and winning the battle anyway. He's admitted as much. Regardless, unless Roman changes his attitude, this will not be a championship team.


The Vance McDonald drop on the perfectly thrown pass could have been a game changer. Vernon Davis wouldn't have dropped it, sorry for comparisons, but so will everyone else.

One thing that disturbs me, the 49ers offense are dependant on the Tight End game, or the entire offense will collapse, regardless of the fact both Boldin and Manningham was in. Remember when Kappy three for 412 yards throwing mainly to Boldin. He made do with ONE primary go-to.

Well, what happened to that?

Different teams, different coverages, different schemes, different play calls, different personnel groupings.

Boldin called the recent offensive stink "unacceptable."


The Seahawks and the Saints are clearly head and shoulders above everyone else in the NFC...