By Jerrell Richardson
There is no getting around the fact that the 49ers loss to the Carolina Panthers was a serious blow to a team that was hoping to grab home field advantage through the playoffs. While there is still plenty of time to catch the respective division’s leaders, the chances of that are slim to none at this point. While the teams they are chasing can of course slip up down the stretch, at this point, the 49ers need to focus on themselves and breathing life into their passing game. San Francisco has been the last-ranked passing team for most of the season, but even after a 46 total passing yard performance this past week, things are looking up. The light at the end of the tunnel is clearly in sight.
What Was Expected?
The 10-9 loss to the Panthers was due to San Francisco’s inability to pass the ball. While some analysts are up in arms about the team’s weak link, these critics are unable to see the bigger picture. There is no denying that this past Sunday, the passing game was flat-out pathetic, but what was expected? It’s asking a lot to have a prolific passing day against an outstanding Panther defense, from a team that has struggled all year to throw the ball, and was thrown two curveballs in the first half. Not only did San Francisco lose their best receiving threat, Vernon Davis, but they also lost Davis’ replacement, Garrett Celek as well. While this hurt the passing game, it also hurt the running game, eliminating the ability to use the multiple tight end formations. The 49ers might have been able to hold onto their game plan after losing one tight end, but not after two.
Plan B and C Already in Place
So why doesn’t San Francisco have another viable receiving threat if something happens to Davis? Well, in fact, San Francisco does, they just weren’t quite ready for this game. This past Sunday was the 2013 debut of Mario Manningham who dropped a few passes, was rusty, but showed that once he gets his game legs under him, he will be a reliable possession receiver. There is also the much-anticipated return of Michael Crabtree in a few weeks that will finally give the 49ers their Pro Bowl receiver, and make Anquan Boldin a more consistent threat as well.
When everyone is healthy and has a chance to get into a rhythm, the passing game will be just fine, but until then, San Francisco is one injury away from another terrible day throwing the ball.
No Reason To Jump Ship
Those losing faith in the 49ers are foolish. They were still one lucky bounce away from beating a very talented Carolina team, and the team’s only weakness is their passing game, which should have an asterisk next to it. San Francisco has a quarterback starting in just his first year, and has not played a single game with even close to his full complement of weapons. The San Francisco defense has to be playing as well as any unit in the league, and once Manningham and Crabtree are ready to go, the problems with the passing game will disappear. Think about it, Colin Kaepernick was supposed to have success against the best front seven in football after preparing all week to play with Vernon Davis, and having Mario Manningham seeing his first action of the season? Give the team and Kaepernick a break.
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