Super Bowl hopes? A little optimistic at the moment.
The San Francisco 49ers fell to the Carolina Panthers 10-9 on Sunday in a struggle that gave fans nausea. Playing at Candlestick Park, a victory was necessary to keep pace with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, but the 49ers now find themselves three games behind in the loss column and just a game ahead of the Arizona Cardinals.
The 49ers defense did its part, but the offense sputtered when needed. Against an elite Carolina front seven, San Francisco mustered 151 total yards from scrimmage and went 2-for-13 on third down conversions. They only had 10 first downs for the day and made one trip to the red zone.
Colin Kaepernick put on a dismal performance. He completed 11-of-22 throws for 91 yards and was sacked six times, which brought the 49ers’ net aerial yardage to 46. Furthermore, Kaepernick giftwrapped an interception to journeyman corner Drayton Florence on the final drive of the afternoon.
With no room to scramble, Kaepernick repeatedly dropped back in the pocket and appeared indecisive with the football. His throws remained accurate, but they continued to be forced into tight windows (which can be attributed to a lack of downfield weapons) and too often the quarterback waited for a play that never came.
Underwhelming protection by the offensive line (and particularly Anthony Davis) did their signal caller no favors, but the front five did establish openings for Frank Gore, which is impressive considering the Panthers’ second-ranked run defense. Nevertheless, Kaepernick couldn’t take advantage, which was apparent by his ineffectiveness.
Bottom line, the loss is on Kaepernick. The team leader was required to elevate his play at home and the quarterback wilted under pressure. Kaepernick likely cringed when watching film on Monday, but he has no time to mope with a trip to New Orleans this weekend. He must put Week 10 behind him and recapture the magic he channeled at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2012.