Like the Rams, ***** are 1-2 and looking for answers
By Joe Lyons
For the first time in three seasons as a head coach in the NFL, Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco ***** is dealing with back-to-back losses.
After an impressive 34-28 victory over the visiting Green Bay Packers to open the season, the ***** were completely dominated 29-3 by the Seahawks in Seattle and then beaten again 27-7 by the visiting Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
The ***** (1-2) and Rams (1-2) will square off 7:25 p.m. Thursday in a key NFC West game at the Edward Jones Dome.
Since their loss in the Super Bowl a year ago, the ***** have run into their share of obstacles. With Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams coming off ACL injuries, the receiving corps took a major hit when elite pass-catcher Michael Crabtree (85 catches, 1,105 yards, 9 TDs in 2012) tore his Achilles during organized team activities in the spring.
Last Friday, San Francisco linebacker/defensive end Aldon Smith, the former Mizzou star, was arrested on suspicion of DUI. He played Sunday, amid controversy, and was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list Monday. He will take an indefinite leave of absence while dealing with substance-abuse issues.
On top of that, the *****’ initial injury list of the week featured 13 players, including starters Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Anthony Davis, Vernon Davis, Jonathan Goodwin, Williams, Ray McDonald, Mike Iupati, Carlos Rogers, Frank Gore and another Mizzou product, Justin Smith.
“We’re definitely facing adversity (and) it gives us an opportunity to stare it in the face and respond,’’ Harbaugh said. “It’s a relentless quest for improvement. That’s where we’re at.’’
A year ago, the Rams finished 4-1-1 in the division and 3-0 at home against division foes. The ***** came from behind in a tie against the Rams in San Francisco on Nov. 11 and the Rams rallied to capture a 16-13 overtime decision at the Edward Jones Dome on Dec. 2.
“Two hotly contested games against a division rival. Very competitive,’’ Harbaugh said, recalling last year’s games with the Rams. “And I’d expect no different going into this year.’’
The *****’ 2012 season took a turn late in the first half of the Rams’ game in San Francisco. On a short run, quarterback Alex Smith was struck in the back of the head with a forearm from then-Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
Smith eventually left the game with a concussion and was replaced by Colin Kaepernick, a second-year player from the University of Nevada.
Chosen with the 36th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Kaepernick took the league by storm in leading the ***** to the Super Bowl. In seven regular-season starts, he completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 1,814 yards, with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also rushed for 415 yards and five scores
The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder was just as impressive in the playoffs. In his first postseason start, he shook off an early pick-6 to lead the ***** past the visiting Green Bay Packers 45-31. He threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns while setting an NFL record for quarterbacks with an 181-yard rushing day that featured scoring runs from 20 and 56 yards.
At Atlanta in the conference title game, the Falcons went up 17-0 but San Francisco rallied for a 28-24 win as Kaepernick threw for 233 yards and a touchdown. In the Super Bowl, he passed for 302 yards and a touchdown and added a 15-yard scoring run.
Kaepernick picked up where he left off to open this season, completing 27 of 39 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns in a win over the visiting Packers.
But he has struggled mightily in losses against the Seahawks (13 of 28, 127 yards, three interceptions) and the Colts (13 of 27, 150 yards, one fumble lost, one interception).
“We just didn’t play well in the last two games,’’ said Kaepernick during a short conference call Tuesday afternoon.
To protect their young and talented quarterback, the ***** have backed off the read-option that made Kaepernick so dangerous a year ago.
“It’s just part of the game plan we’re going with right now; I’ll do whatever this team needs me to do to win,’’ he said.
And while defenses have made adjustments to counter the read-option, Kaepernick said the *****’ recent problems are of their own making.
“We just haven’t executed,’’ he said.
Harbaugh agreed: “Offensively, it’s always a team game. You need 11 playing with precision. The effort has been extremely good and the precision needs to be better — from the entire unit.’’
Through three games this season Kaepernick has completed 56.4 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns and four interceptions. He has rushed 23 times for 129 yards.
But he still must be accounted for.
“Colin forces you to be really sound in your assignments and where you’re supposed to be,’’ Rams defensive end Chris Long said. “Any play, as you saw last year, he can break it big. He keeps you honest and he keeps you on your toes.’’
Acquired from the Super Bowl champion Ravens for a sixth-round draft choice, three-time Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin leads the San Francisco receivers with 19 catches for 281 yards and a touchdown. Davis, one of the league’s premier tight ends, has nine catches for 118 yards and two scores, but he sat out the Indianapolis game after going down with a hamstring injury late in Seattle.
Gore (41 carries, 141 yards, one TD) again keys the *****’ ground attack. He ran for 70 of his 82 yards in the first half Sunday against the Colts, but figures to get plenty of work this week after Dallas’ DeMarco Murray ran for 175 yards against the Rams.
“I would expect to see more than a lot of (Gore) based on, I think, he had 11 touches last weekend in a loss,’’ Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s an outstanding back — strong, physical, tough, smart and he plays very well without the football.’’
Long added: “After the show we put on Sunday, I’d run the ball, too.’’
Early-season defensive leaders for San Francisco are Bowman (28 tackles), safety Donte Whitner (19 tackles), linebacker Ahmad Brooks (18 tackles, one sack), Willis (19 tackles), Aldon Smith (17 tackles, 3 ½ sacks) and Justin Smith (17 tackles, one sack).
Re: Like the Rams, ***** are 1-2 and looking for answers
We need to start out fast....enough of the trying to catch up/:ocome from behind mode. I don't think I can take it anymore!