By Sam McPherson
The San Francisco Giants led the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-2, at the end of the first inning on Sunday. Wait, that’s not correct!
Let’s try this again. The San Francisco 49ers led the St. Louis Rams, 3-2, at the end of the first quarter on Sunday, and it was all downhill from there for the visiting 49ers as the Rams pulled away in the second quarter to take a 20-6 halftime lead. Eventually, St. Louis would win the game, 27-6, as San Francisco dropped to 2-6 on the season with its sixth loss in the last seven games.
It’s going to be a tough week ahead for the 49ers, as both Head Coach Jim Tomsula and starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick are going to be on the hot seat as the team heads towards its worst season in a decade. San Francisco has a home game next week against the 6-2 Atlanta Falcons before the team gets its 2015 bye week; that may be an even uglier week for both coach and QB if 49ers lose again next weekend.
The 49ers gained just 189 total yards. While the injuries to the running backs can’t be ignored, using injuries as an excuse is for bandwagon fans. They happen, and the S.F. organization hasn’t spent its money wisely enough to have quality backups; especially in a week where they just cut Jarryd Hayne. The 49ers had just 38 yards rushing, 28 of those yards came from Kaepernick. Reggie Bush was hurt (again) and the team was down to Mike Davis and Kendall Gaskins at the RB position.
Kaepernick’s arm didn’t do much of anything either. He completed just 20 of 41 attempts for a meager 162 yards. That’s less than four yards per attempt, and no one wins in the NFL with those numbers. Kaepernick also was sacked three times. The offense was just 3-for-18 on third and fourth down conversions; and for the second week in a row, the 49ers couldn’t find the end zone.
Take away two big scoring plays and the S.F. defense held the Rams to just 251 yards. However, those two big plays, a 71-yard touchdown run and a 66-yard touchdown pass, made a big impact. Sure, the 49ers still would have lost, but the defense did its job for the most part. St. Louis was even worse on third down than the S.F. offense: just 1-for-12 for the day.
Rams RB Todd Gurley ran for 133 yards, including that 71-yard TD effort. Overall, St. Louis ran for 197 yards, and that keeps a defense tired. St. Louis QB Nick Foles did just enough (14-for-23, 191 yards, one TD) to get the Rams on the scoreboard plenty of times, although having the running game behind him certainly helped. The 49ers defense did force the game’s only turnover, though.
Special Teams: A
The punting was excellent and Phil Dawson made his two field-goal attempts, including one from 54 yards out. Without Dawson, the 49ers would be working on a long scoreless streak. Heck, Dawson even boomed a 48-yard punt against the Rams in this game. The return game was fine, but it doesn’t help the offense no matter what happens on special teams. It would help if the 49ers could return a kick or a punt for a score once in awhile to fire up the team and perhaps jump start the offense, but you can’t knock the group for doing its job.
Sooner or later, the lackluster offensive efforts have to land on the coaching staff. Tomsula needs to try something different, even with the RB injuries. Mix it up somehow and prove that a football mind can think of things no one else can, even if they don’t work. This team is 2-6 and once again, the game was all but over by halftime. That’s been the case in three road losses this season already. Tomsula has shown he can rally his team more effectively at home, but the road games continue to be a disaster. Why can’t this team come out fired up away from Levi’s Stadium?
Bye Week Can’t Get Here Soon Enough
Two big questions linger for the 49ers as they get ready to host the Falcons next week at home: One, Will Kaepernick last past the bye week as the starting QB? If the team is going to make a move, that’s the time to do it in order to give Blaine Gabbert the extra week of preparation. Two, will Tomsula last past the bye week as the head coach? Yes, the team is really bereft of talent and depth, and the injuries have made it worse. Both those things aren’t the fault of the head coach, but the 49ers have lost their six games by an average of almost three TDs each. Generally, they’re not a competitive team; that does fall on the head coach.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.