The 49ers appear to be in what looks like a replay of last year’s beginning after three weeks into the 2014 NFL season. They’re 1-2 and on a current two-game losing streak as they enter Week 4.
There becomes a larger question mark as to why this time around is more of a concern than last year. NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith are missing out of linebackers and the cornerback position has been rattled so far.
Colin Kaepernick brought up how both losses to the Bears and Cardinals were close, but the real issue is how he compared this with the past. He said the losses to Seattle and Indianapolis in 2013 were both blowouts where they had no chance.
“We should have two wins,” Kaepernick said after Sunday’s loss. “Last year when we had two losses we didn’t play well at all. These games were close games that we should have won.”
The 49ers lost 29-3 to the Seahawks and 27-7 to the Colts in back to back weeks of 2013. However, the scoreboard is deceiving as the defense kept them in the game both times until they were on the field for too long. It was a 12-5 game in Seattle and a 13-7 game after three quarters, thus determining it was closer than the final scores indicate.
What happened in both losses was the offense not coming up with first downs while the defense was left on the field too much. In Week 3 of both 2013 and 2014, Vernon Davis was out which led to a change in offense.
Greg Roman has been calling for a more aggressive passing game while abandoning the run since Davis has been injured. Frank Gore received only one carry each time in the second half vs. the Colts in 2013 and Cardinals in 2014.
The 49ers wanted to use their weapons and went with a surprise no-huddle offense vs. Arizona on Sunday with four and five wide receiver sets. This complex game plan in the beginning became too much as the 49ers had to utilize two timeouts on the first offensive possession of the game.
Yes, it doesn’t help that Anthony Davis is missing at right tackle and yes, the Cardinals are one of the top defenses in the NFL. However, they cannot become predictable in being a pass first team when running the ball has been the bread and butter since Frank Gore has been with the 49ers.
Carlos Hyde and Gore combined for only two carries in the second half as it felt like the 49ers were chasing a 20 point deficit when in reality they were in a close game. The only other plays on the ground were scrambles or designed runs for Colin Kaepernick.
On the final offensive possession before the Cardinals kicked a field goal to seal it, Hyde had one carry on the first play, but the 49ers chose to pass the ball the entire time. There wasn’t a need to act urgent like it was a two-minute drill as there were almost seven minutes remaining in the game.
After Hyde’s lone carry, Roman called five straight passing plays where the first two were completions for a first down, but the end result was stale.
Jim Harbaugh acknowledged that there needed to be some things addressed moving forward. He expects the team to overcome this adversity knowing they’ve experienced it last year.
“We’ve been in this position before, where there is an ebb or a flow to the season,” Harbaugh said. “We’re in it now. That’s the great challenge for our football team and have great confidence that we’ll attack it.”
The 49ers game plan without Vernon Davis was a hurry up offense with less runs in an attempt to confuse the Cardinals, but in the end, it only confused themselves after halftime adjustments.