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Holiday heartbreak: Puttering offense puts 49er playoff hopes in jeopardy

Holiday heartbreak: Puttering offense puts 49er playoff hopes in jeopardy

Colin Kaepernick drops back and surveys the field from the pocket during the first half of Thursday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.


POSTED November 28, 2014 2:29 p.m.

Three points and 164 yards. It's hardly the type of effort one would expect from an NFL team, but that was San Francisco's output against Seattle on Thursday.

The game was billed as the main course of the NFL's triple-header on Thanksgiving day. A showdown of division rivals who's disdain for each other seems to increase each time they meet on the field. Expectations were high but the results, at least on the part of the 49ers, fell short. So short, that 49ers CEO Jed York felt the need to issue a tweet apologizing to the fans for the performance.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick took the brunt of the criticism after the game as he was met with boos during his exit from the field. With two interceptions, no touchdowns and a passer rating of 36.7, Kaepernick's performance proved to be his lowest of the season and second lowest of his career — his absolute worst game was also played against Seattle in week two of last season.

“In all areas, they played better team football,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said when specifically asked about Kaepernick's performance.

While Harbaugh isn't wrong, it's clear he was trying to shield his quarterback from the majority of the blame with his answer.

Kaepernick, on the other hand, had no problem claiming mea culpa for the loss.

“They were bad throws. Our receivers won, I didn't make the throw on those. Those are my fault,” Kaepernick said. “I didn't play well tonight. If your quarterback doesn't play well, it's going to be hard for you to win games.”

The hard truth is, whether it's player personnel, schemes or a mental advantage, the Seahawks' defense seems to have Kaepernick and the 49ers offense figured out.  How else can you explain San Francisco's meager game-total of 64 passing yards?

Levi's Stadium was in an uproar before the opening kickoff. The fans, like myself, were expecting a back-and-forth battle between two teams who had been to the Super Bowl in the past two years. But after Richard Sherman's interception of Kaepernick on San Francisco's third drive of the game, the tone quickly changed. There was a sense, even though it was still early, that the night would not play out as the 49ers had hoped. The mood worsened when Seattle scored on its ensuing drive.

San Francisco's defense shored up after the touchdown, forcing the Seahawks to settle for field goals for the remainder of the game. But a solid defensive effort means nothing if the offense can't produce more than three points.

And it's not just Seattle's defense that has people buzzing about San Francisco's offense, or lack thereof. Despite entering Thursday's game on a three-game win streak, the 49ers had only scored three touchdowns in their last two games. Not exactly the type of output expected against the New York Giants and Washington Redskins who both have only three wins to their name.

So what's the problem?

Some point to San Francisco's offensive line and the absence of right tackle Anthony Davis for the past two weeks. Others blame play calling and ask why, with future Hall of Famer Frank Gore and the up-and-coming Carlos Hyde in the backfield, the 49ers don't run more? And a few, especially after Thursday, have begun to question Kaepernick and his decisions.

Whatever the case may be, San Francisco had better figure it out quick. Thursday's loss badly hurt San Francisco's chance at entering the playoff picture as a NFC Wild Card, putting itself in a win-out situation with four weeks left in the season. For the first time since Harbaugh's arrival, the 49ers face the possibility of not advancing into the post-season. And with persisting rumors that Harbaugh's tenure as San Francisco's head coach will be over after this season, Super Bowl win or not, a failure to make the playoffs would seemingly cement that outcome.

49ers fans are undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief that their next game will be played against the 1-10 Oakland Raiders. Unfortunately, that game will be followed by an immediate rematch with Seattle — this time on the road. If San Francisco can avoid a trap-loss to Oakland and earn redemption against the Seahawks, it'll still have to beat the San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals to keep its post-season hopes alive.

Needless to say, the 49ers have a tough road ahead of them. A road that will test their mettle as a team and will likely define the team's identity as they move forward.

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