With a loss against the Colts on Sunday, the 1-2 San Francisco 49ers are a sub .500 team for the first time in Jim Harbaugh era. It is also the first time the 49ers have lost two in a row under Harbaugh. San Francisco couldn’t get much going against Colts’ defense almost all day. The 49ers technically had 11 drives on offense, but I count only 10 (the kneel-down drive at the end of 1st half obviously excluded) from which they scored only 1 TD. On average, they’ve started their drives on own 20 yard line, which was the worst average field position this season.
1st drive: Own 13, 11:20 left in the 1st qrt, SF down 7-0
Colts scored on their opening drive, but the 49ers started their own with a 3 & out. That has been the case in all of the 49ers’ games this season – a slow, 3 and out, start on offense. Kaepernick missed K. Williams on 2nd & 3 and when K. Hunter gained only 2 yards on 3rd down the 49ers had to punt.
2nd drive: Own 9, 8:47 left in the 1st qrt, SF down 7-0
The 49ers got it going on the second drive of the game. Kaepernick completed pass to A. Boldin for 14 yards and later scrambled for another 14 yards and a first down. From that point on, if we exclude sack play for 1 yard loss (Kaepernick ran out of bound behind the line of scrimmage), the 49ers turned to their running game. With runs from Gore for 11 and 21 yards the 49ers were quickly in the redzone. After a 3 yard loss on 1st, K. Hunter ran for 13 yards and a touchdown on 2nd down.
3rd drive: At 50, 2:53 left in the 1st qrt, score tied 7-7
The 49ers started this drive at midfield after a good punt return from K. Williams. It was a rare possession with good field position, but the 49ers ended the drive with another 3 and out. Kaepernick failed to connect with K. Williams on 3rd and 4 play on which he successfully avoided the pressure, but missed wide open K. Williams.
4th drive: Own 8, 13:41 left in the 2nd qrt, score tied 7-7
Following F. Gore’s run on 1st down, a false start penalty and a scramble by Kaepernick for 5 yards, the 49ers faced 3rd and 7. Kaepernick found rookie WR Q. Patton who dropped the pass (the drop was forced by defender). With TE V. Davis out, it was getting obvious that Kaepernick, besides from Boldin, doesn’t really have receivers to throw the ball to.
5th drive: Own 20, 7:00 left in the 2nd qrt, SF down 10-7
Kaepernick opened the drive with another scramble as he couldn’t find open receivers. After a run from A. Dixon for 1-yard loss, Kaepernick found his favorite target – A. Boldin for 24 yards. The 49ers’ next 1st down run play ended with no gain and Kaepernick was off-target on the next two plays, he was under pressure on 3rd down and missed F. Gore. Drive ended with the punt.
6th drive: Own 20, 15:00 left in the 3rd qrt, SF down 10-7
The 49ers opened the second half with two promising F. Gore runs for 7 and 5 yards, but the drive ended again on 3rd down when Kaepernick was forced to scramble and got only 1 yard. The result, 5th punt.
7th drive: Own 20, 6:46 left in the 3rd qrt, SF down 13-7
On first play of the drive Kaepernick dropped back to pass from pistol formation, he was under pressure and couldn’t complete a pass to F. Gore. On 2nd and 3rd down he found A. Boldin and B. Miller and the 49ers moved the chains. After another first down run from F. Gore, Kaepernick decided to run with a ball on read-option play and lost 5 yards. K. Hunter only gained 2 yards and with 3rd and long Kaepernick completed a pass to A. Boldin 4 yards short of another first down.
8th drive: Own 41, 12:41 left in the 4th qrt, SF down 13-7
Still down by 6 and plenty of time left this had to be the most disappointing drive of the game. Kaepernick’s deep pass to TE G. Celek was a bit off target. K. Hunter got 4 yards on the next play from 5-wide formation. It was 3rd and 6 and on that play Kaepernick couldn’t avoid the sack. The 49ers ended their drive with another 3 and out.
9th drive: Own 11, 4:13 left in the 4th qrt, SF down 20-7
Down by two scores, 49ers had to respond quickly, instead it was another turnover by Colin Kaepernick. His first pass to A. Boldin was defended, the second one to M. Moore dropped. On another 3rd down Kaepernick tried to escape from the pressure, but was sacked and fumbled the ball. The ball was recovered by Indianapolis Colts at SF 8 yard line.
10th drive: Own 12, 2:55 left in the 4th qrt, SF down 27-7
Trailing late in the game 49ers tend operated from shotgun formation only. Kaepernick completed 5 of 8 short passes on this final drive. On 1st and 10 from IND 21 yard line Kaepernick was again in the shotgun. He intended a pass to K. Williams which was deflected and intercepted. It was second time in a row that the 49ers ended the game on offense with an interception.
Another dismal performance from the 49ers, after only 3 points from 11 drives against the Seahawks in Week 2, the 49ers managed to score only 1 TD from 10 drives against the Colts last Sunday. They had 52 plays on offense (kneel-down play to end the half excluded). Kaepernick who committed 6 turnovers in all of 2012 season, had 4 TO against Seattle (3 INTs, 1 lost sack fumble) and he added 2 more against the Colts (1 INT, 1 lost sack fumble).
In the first 2 weeks of 2013 season, the 49ers attacked opposing defenses the most from the shotgun and its hybrid pistol formations. In the game against the Colts, the 49ers ran the pistol on only 13.5% of all plays, but were heavy with the shotgun again. They used the shotgun 100% in their last two drives (all 13 plays), when they were behind by more than a score.
Out of total 52 offensive plays, 35 (67.3%) were designed pass plays: 27 pass attempts, 5 scrambles and 3 plays resulted in a sack. First let’s take a look at standard passing stats.
Almost identical stat line for Colin Kaepernick compared to Week 2. Only 4.7 yards per pass play and 8.6% sack rate. Colin Kaepernick had another bad performance, this time against not so stout Colts defense. The 49ers had 12 3rd/4th down plays. Kaepernick attempted 9 passes, completed 5 with 55.6% completion rate. He scrambled once for 1 yard and was sacked twice for a loss of 11 yards (1 lost sack fumble) in those critical down situations. On average, 49ers had 7 yards to go on 3rd down.
Colin Kaepernick was pressured 7 times out of total 35 dropbacks (20.0%) against the Colts, 3 of those 7 pressure plays resulted in a sack, he attempted 2 passes as we can see from the table above and had to scramble twice (out of 5 total scrambles) because of the pressure provided by the Colts. 7 pressure plays and a 20% pressure rate doesn’t seem a lot, but there were couple of plays where Kaepernick left the pocket and escaped the pressure and had to attempt a pass while on the move. On a few plays it seemed as if Kaepernick left the pocket too early but those could easily be designed runs. For example, here’s a play from the second quarter. Ball on SF 6 yard line, 49ers in 12 personnel grouping, Kaepernick looks to his right toward WR K. Williams, but immediately turns and starts to run with the ball (click on the image to enlarge).
Kaepernick attempted a total of 27 passes and completed 13 of them, 1 pass was intercepted. Here’s a breakdown of 13 incompletions. He was off-target on nearly 70% of his incompletions which is a big jump from his normal off-target rate.
Kaepernick ran with the ball only once for -5 yards (read-option run) on a designed run play. But like I already mentioned and gave an example with an image, one of scramble plays could have also very well been designed run.
For the second week in a row Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers couldn’t do much on offense. That didn’t help the defense which was on the field for 36+ minutes. Actually, on defense, the 49ers did ok until late in the game. Kaepernick avoided as much pressure as he could and didn’t commit turnover until late in the 4th quarter when he first lost the ball after a sack and later when his deflected pass was intercepted on 49ers’ last drive. San Francisco 49ers started the season without injured wide receivers M. Crabtree and M. Manningham and were without V. Davis for Week 3 matchup against the Colts. Being without V. Davis really hurt. Just for example, here’s a play in which the 49ers went 5-wide with empty backfield with so-called 00 personnel grouping. Receivers on that play: A. Boldin, B. Miller, V. McDonald, G. Celek and K. Hunter, who eventually caught a screen pass for 4 yards.
I think that says a lot about SF wide-receivers group. V. Davis is a big part of SF offense and helps other receivers to get open. On Sunday, on majority of plays Kaepernick didn’t have open targets as wide receivers couldn’t beat man coverage. On rare occasions when they did get open Kaepernick left the pocket too early and was off-target with his passes on the move. As already said, one thing he does really good, is avoiding the pressure, but he cannot sustain drives that way. He needs to improve and become better at progressing past his first read and sometimes just dump the ball off underneath to open receiver or running back.
The 49ers face division rival St. Louis Rams on a short week on the road on Thursday Night so there won’t be much time to fix obvious problems on offense. Could be V. Davis will have to sit down another game with his hamstring injury. Maybe the answer right now for the 49ers is to return to their power running game, get some rhythm on offense and allow for defense to get some rest.