Is there reason to be concerned about the San Francisco 49ers following a disappointing loss in week ten? Coming off a home loss to the Carolina Panthers, in which the offense looked atrocious, the 49ers head east to play a red-hot Saints team in the Superdome. The curious thing about the result of the Panthers game is that these are the type of games the 49ers typically win, tough, physical, grind-it-out style games that are won in the trenches. Not this past Sunday. The Panthers made enough big plays throughout the game to beat Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers at their own brand of football.
So why weren’t the 49ers able to get the victory this past Sunday? The defense had a stellar game, holding Carolina to 250 total yards and forcing one interception from Panthers quarterback, Cam Newton. While he did not have a career day, 49er running back Frank Gore was still able to gain 84 yards on 16 carries, showing that the 49ers had the ability to get physical when needed and were able to move the ball on the ground. The reason the 49ers lost this past Sunday had nothing to do with their defense or running game, but instead with the passing game. There was no balance to the offense; Colin Kaepernick threw 11 times for an abysmal 91 yards. The 49ers never posed a threat to make a big play in the passing game, making their offense one dimensional and easy to stop. However, not all the blame should be placed on Kaepernick, The offensive line let the 49ers quarterback down allowing him to get sacked six times for a loss of 45 yards. The Panthers took advantage of the 49ers lacking aerial attack by sending more men to the line of scrimmage to stop Frank Gore and bring additional pressure on Kaepernick. While this opened opportunities for big plays downfield, the offense was unable to capitalize.
Unfortunately for the 49ers, this has been a recurrent theme throughout the season. With the exception of the game against the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers’ passing game has been non-existent against the elite teams they have played this year, the Seahawks, Colts and now the Panthers. The 49ers now have the worst statistical passing offense in the NFL, averaging a mere 173 yards per game. Even more, they falter against the better teams in the NFL, making the potential playoff situation extremely worrisome.
While the 49ers current situation is alarming, there are reasons for fans to stay positive. The 49ers have a 6-3 record and are still in 2nd place in the NFC West. They play the Saints next week who, despite their great season, have losses to both the Patriots and the Jets. While the Saints are tough to beat at home, the 49ers have had success in the Superdome, both last year and two years ago in the playoffs. To win this Sunday, the 49ers will have to step up their passing game. Kaepernick and the offensive line will have to make quick, accurate decisions to hold off the Saints’ aggressive defense. If they do, it could lead to more big plays, as the 49ers skill position players will most likely be in single coverage. If the 49ers offensive line can stand firm and Kaepernick can stay composed to make big plays down the field, then the 49ers can deliver a huge win for San Francisco following last weekend’s loss.