It’s never just about one guy and one unit. The San Francisco 49ers lost to the St. Louis Rams 13-10, falling to 4-4 this season, because Colin Kaepernick isn’t that good of a quarterback, fumbling the ball on the goalline on the last chance, but he also had to escape a hungry pass rush, with his offensive line breaking down too much and too easily.
So while the numbers suggest it’s actually a miracle Kaepernick wasn’t injured during the game due to all the hits he took from the Rams’ pass rush, one of the worst in the NFL until two weeks ago, everyone will remember how he turned the ball over on the most important play of the game. Just like he did on other big occasions. The turnovers are what people always remember. Kaepernick isn’t the kind of quarterback to get the benefit of the doubt from public opinion and critics.
The 49ers went on a 87-yard drive to try and win or at least tie the game. They reached the Rams’ five-yard line thanks to a penalty call, but couldn’t move the chains from there. A defensive holding moved them three yards to get another first down on the two, but Kaepernick couldn’t get more than a one-yard pass, followed by an incomplete one, and then a quarterback sneak that miserably failed. No field goal? No running back to punch through the lines? The 49ers made mistakes in those seconds on too many levels.
Completing 22-of-33 passes, Kaepernick threw one touchdown pass and for 237 yards. But he was sacked eight times and took quite a lot of hits as he never had the time to break free into open field (five rushes, 14 yards) and seems to rely on his running ability too much when faced with a pass rush. Instead of throwing the ball away and hurting his numbers (god forbid someone says he isn’t accurate), Kaepernick usually makes for a very easy target.
But there’s a point where it stops being just Kaepernick’s fault. The Rams broke through so many times through the offensive line that has been having trouble all season long it’s impossible to put all the blame on the quarterback just because of who he is. He might be strong and fast, but he’s not quick enough to dodge so many bullets. The 49ers struggled running the ball, held to 80 yards on 21 carries, and couldn’t put any points on the board during the final 41 minutes of the game.
The Rams are the lesser angle of a very strong division, that might send just one team into the playoff. Austin Davis, for all the sympathy he’s been able to generate, can be more of a burden than a blessing. The running game has improved since Tre Mason has been getting more touches, rushing for 65 yards in this game, but overall, the clear lack of game changers and breakout playmakers is too much for a team with a good coach and a mostly solid defense to handle.
The 49ers aren’t lost yet. At 4-4, in the way the NFC is forming itself towards the second half of the season, things are quite open. But with an offensive line that doesn’t leave his runners and quarterback a chance, it might be a lot less than a surprise if the 49ers very quickly find themselves in too big of and deep of a hole to climb out of. Defensive suspensions and outside pressure via rumors took their toll on this team, but mostly it’s been the inability to generate offense. Because of an overpaid, inconsistent quarterback, and an offensive line that isn’t very good anymore.