By Sam McPherson
The San Francisco 49ers didn’t look good in the preseason on offense, and despite the 28-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 of the regular season, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Co. still have some issues they need to address in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears.
Kaepernick really only led the team to two touchdowns, as the defense scored once off a fumble return and then set up the offense on the two-yard line for another score. The team’s second-half drives ended in three punts and a missed field goal—totaling just 94 yards combined.
Incidentally, the first offensive TD was a lightning-type strike: 80 yards in three plays. Those are nice for the style points and the scoreboard, but they’re not commonplace in the NFL landscape. So for the offense to put together only one true, sustained scoring drive on the day against a mediocre—at best—Dallas defense shows us the 49ers still have work to do on offense, despite the road win.
What does the S.F. offense need to do in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears?
They have to avoid penalties, for one. Overall, the team had 11 penalties for 80 yards on the day, perhaps expected for the first week of the season after an exhibition slate that didn’t see too many regulars get a lot of field time. For example, when the 49ers had to punt in the first half, already leading 21-3, the offense line was called for two holding penalties. Kaepernick overcame the first one with a completion to wide receiver Michael Crabtree, but the second penalty left the offense in a 3rd-and-30 situation—instead of a manageable 4th-and-4 opportunity.
In the second half, leading 28-3, maybe there was a lack of urgency to the offense’s rhythm; coming right out of halftime, the 49ers went three and out pretty quickly. The second possession of the third quarter featured an interception by Dallas that was overturned on replay, resulting in three straight incompletions by Kaepernick and a punt.
The next drive stalled when yet another holding penalty and then an offensive pass interference call stifled all momentum. The PI flag was a killer, as it wiped out a 32-yard completion to tight end Vernon Davis.
(The final full possession of the game for the 49ers was all running game—six carries, 40 yards—that ended in a missed field goal by Phil Dawson, from 37 yards out.)
The inconsistency was somewhat predictable, again, because of the offense’s struggles in the preseason. Certainly, the talent is there; no one questions that. But the 49ers were lucky the Cowboys were so generous with the turnovers in helping S.F. score easily a few times—because the offense really struggled when you break down the game more closely.
Of course, the good news was the 49ers didn’t turn the ball over themselves, leaving them +4 in that category for the first game. It’s hard to lose when the other team gifts you a few scores while also negating a few chances of their own.
Now, some could argue that Chicago QB Jay Cutler is of the same mold as Dallas QB Tony Romo. And Cutler did throw two interceptions in the Bears’ Week 1 overtime loss against Buffalo.
But relying on—or rather, expecting—the opponent to cough up the football regularly for your benefit is not the way Head Coach Jim Harbaugh wants to win. He wants his team to go out and take the game on their own.
And that’s what the S.F. offense will have to do against the Bears defense in Week 2: Be more consistent and less error-prone while creating more of their own opportunities.
Otherwise, the Levi’s christening could be a downer.
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Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.