SANTA CLARA – Kansas City’s offense is precisely the prudent brown-paper bag everyone expected it to be after the Chiefs traded for longtime 49ers quarterback Alex Smith in the offseason: a lot of running plays, few turnovers and not many ambitious throws downfield.
What’s surprising – and frustrating to so many 49ers fans – is that the Colin Kaepernick-led San Francisco offense hasn’t been any more exciting or effective.
The 49ers average only 174 passing yards per game, last in the league. Smith and the undefeated Chiefs rank 27th at 198 yards a game.
Both quarterbacks have thrown only nine touchdown passes, 27th in the NFL. Then again, the 49ers’ six interceptions are tied for the second-fewest in the league, trailing only Kansas City, which has thrown four.
Even Kaepernick’s rushing numbers, which seemed so tantalizing after he dashed through the 2012 playoffs – would he set a season record for a quarterback? – have been merely good and not dramatically different than Smith’s. Kaepernick averages 34.4 yards a game on the ground, Smith 29.4.
The “yeah, but” criticism has been the same, too. As in: Yeah, their teams have winning records, but the quarterback isn’t making the offense better and has been leaning on defense and special teams to win games.
Look more closely, and there are differences. Kaepernick pushes the ball downfield more than Smith – especially when Vernon Davis is on the field – while Smith prefers to dump off to the running back. Kaepernick gets sacked less than Smith but fumbles more. Kaepernick has lost four this year, Smith none.
The greatest distinction, however, is experience.
It’s easy to forget that Kaepernick has started only 16 games which, in quarterback years, is equivalent to sending your 5-year-old down the driveway for the first time without training wheels. Smith made his 16th start on Nov. 12, 2006.
Are defenses flummoxing Kaepernick with aggressive press coverage? Are they taking away the read-option attack on which he subsisted in college? Does he look uncomfortable at times as he goes through his pass-option progressions, as ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer alleged this week?
Absolutely. But that’s what you’d expect from such a young player.
“There’s still an element I’m seeing where (a defense) shows him something for the first time,” 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Thursday. “Obviously, there was a lot of that last year and very similar this year. I definitely think there is a punch-counterpunch thing, as there always is.”
The problem is that Kaepernick and the 49ers’ passing attack haven’t had much with which to counterpunch this season.
One issue that plagued Smith when he was with the 49ers was his weak supporting cast. You could argue that Kaepernick’s 2013 crew has been more meager than even Smith’s, especially when Davis – who has missed parts of three games, all losses – has been on the sideline.
When Michael Crabtree went down with an Achilles’ injury in May, the question was, would any of the team’s young, unproven backup wide receivers be any good?
The final answer came from the 49ers this week: No.
The 49ers cut one of the few remaining members of that group, Kyle Williams, on Tuesday. Another wide receiver, rookie Quinton Patton, is coming back from a broken foot. The other young contenders in May either have been traded (A.J. Jenkins) or cut (Chad Hall, Ricardo Lockette, Marlon Moore and Williams).
The 49ers’ coaches never say anything remotely negative about players. Instead, the truth comes out through their actions. And those actions scream: Our receivers stink.
That should change by this time next month.
At that point, Crabtree and Mario Manningham promise to be in the lineup and, along with Anquan Boldin, the 49ers should have their most talented three-receiver formation in decades. Add Davis to the mix, and it’s a loaded arsenal.
But for how long?
Manningham and Boldin will be free agents in March. Crabtree is coming off his third lower leg injury – two broken feet, one Achilles’ tear – since he was drafted in 2009. He’s a free agent after next season.
Like any quarterback, Kaepernick needs a strong supporting cast. His development and future success will rest on the 49ers’ ability to draft and develop good, young wide receivers.
So far, they haven’t shown much ability to do either.
Is anyone ticked that win or lose Sunday it helps the Hawks.
From John Clayton - Senior NFL writer ESPN.com_____
A five-game stretch against relatively easy teams may have fooled the 49ers into believing all was well with their offense. They went 5-0 in five games in which they scored at least 30 points, tying a franchise record. Things came crashing to a halt last Sunday, when they lost to the Carolina Panthers 10-9. Colin Kaepernick is taking criticism for his completion percentage dropping from last season's 62.4 percent mark to 56.4. Against winning teams, he's 2-3, and his offense is averaging 17 points a game. If the 49ers' offense can't compete against the potent New Orleans Saints offense, the 49ers would have to give up hopes of winning the NFC West.
The problem is at wide receiver, and that became clear when Vernon Davis left the Carolina game with a concussion. Kaepernick has only two true pass-catching options -- Davis and Anquan Boldin. Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham opened the season on the physically unable to perform list. Manningham has returned, but he's still getting his football legs back. Outside of Boldin, the 49ers have only 20 receptions from wide receivers not named Boldin. They cut Kyle Williams. Jon Baldwin came over in a trade from Kansas City but has been mostly inactive. Marlon Moore was tried and released. Jim Harbaugh is running out of time to fix the problem._____
Even he sees the real problem on this team.
AJ JENKINS UPDATE 2013:
Game played 9 Catches 1 Targeted 4Longest Yards 6 Average 6.0 Total Yards 6 Touchdowns 0
Good Lord. This guy has just committed suicide for not accepting the Help from Jerry Rice. Career ending year here.
Ray McDonald, Garrett Celek are both out for Sunday. Crabtree unlikely so he won't be the 53 man roster move this week
Reid/Davis expected to be ready to go pending results of impact tests.
Article on practice squad safety Michael Thomas who could be a bigger part of the 49ers plans next year.
Saints have rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro and 2nd string TE Ben Watson out Sunday
Seahawks will lose 1 of the 2 vs MIN/NYGBoth the 49ers and saints1 of the 2 vs AZ or STL
Or 4, or 5 or 6 would be good.
Niners are going to be fired up.after that loss.
Baalke now saying Crabtree may play. Probably trying to play mind games with NO considering it's different from what Harbaugh said a few hours ago.
Crab took over Gore/Willis as my favorite 9er the second he was drafted. This is the longest wait ever for me, king crab is my man!!!
Come on Michael!!
TE Derek Carrier gets open 53 man roster spot. 6'4, 241 pounds. Some BG info on him:
BJ Daniels waived by the Seahawks. 49ers could try to get him on their practice squad if he clears waivers. They tried to do this earlier in the season when SEA claimed him.
King crab update?
Most likely won't hit the 53 man?
9 months later the 49ers return to NO with the same issue: redzone offense.