For the second time this year, a frisky young team came into Candlestick and used the 49ers as a launching pad into NFL respectability. First it was the Colts, who used their offense to bowl us over. Then Sunday, the Panthers used their defense, completely stifling Colin Kaepernick, holding him to 91 yards(!) passing, and staggering away with an ugly 10-9 win.
The loss pretty much torched any hopes the team had of overtaking Seattle in the NFC West — barring a season ending injury to Russell Wilson, which would not be Christian to wish for, at least publicly, though privately a certain amount of pining could probably be slipped in without incurring eternal damnation. In fact, the way the offense played Sunday, and with New Orleans up next on the schedule, a Wild Card berth is no gimme at this point, either.
The 49ers came into the game as healthy as they’ve been all year, then promptly lost Vernon Davis, Garrett Celek, Eric Reid, and Ray McDonald to injuries. Without Davis, the team had no deep threat, making life easy for the Panthers’ secondary. Davis went down half way through the second quarter and the offense never scored another point the rest of the game.
It was hoped that the return of WR Mario Manningham would spark the season long anemic passing game, but the loss of Davis negated Mario’s presence. He did catch three passes, two for first downs, which is more than Kyle Williams ever contributed, but these are supporting cast numbers, not difference makers. Kyle, BTW, was deleted from the kick off and punt return teams for this game, with LaMichael James handling the punts more betterly, but not more breathtakingly, and Anthony Dixon handling the kick offs and hopefully this misguided choice will be rectified right away.
It’s beginning to look like the return of WR Michael Crabtree sometime in the next two weeks or so is the last remaining hope for this woeful offense to be competitive against the better teams and keep the fans from ripping out every last hair on their heads by season’s end. Or for you dome topped fellows, running out of band-aids to cover the claw marks on your scalp. It would be irresponsible to suggest any consequences for you eye-gougers, but think twice before you plunge in. The 49ers can overpower the lesser teams, but are clearly struggling against the good ones — the kind that will be in the playoffs.
All in all, a depressing effort coming out of the bye week. One that opens the door to a lot of second guessing. Should be a fun week in the blogosphere!