Finger-pointing was alive and well after the San Francisco 49ers 16-13 defeat to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
“Blame David Akers!” “It’s on that rookie Colin Kaepernick!” “Jim Harbaugh doesn’t know how to call plays!”
Sunday’s defeat showed what happens when Harbaugh’s well-oiled machine concept falls into pieces because a few of the parts go bad.
Take it all back to the third quarter, when Kaepernick, rushed, throws a pass away from the end zone. That’s a safety. Sure, there’s the replays that show the calls were questionable, but like many others have said before me, an experienced quarterback doesn’t put himself in position for that to happen. Safe to say after that debacle, Kaepernick probably knows not to do that EVER again.
Fast-forward to later in the fourth quarter. On third-and-three from their own 17, Harbaugh calls a taser formation with Frank Gore and Ted Ginn Jr. lined up behind Kaepernick. A pitch from Kaepernick to Ginn sails directly over the head of Ginn, and the ball is recovered by the Rams in the end zone for a touchdown.
The call was unnecessary and lands at the hands of Harbaugh and Kaepernick; the coach because he called the play, the player because he couldn’t execute it.
There’s also that core group of people that put the loss solely on Akers’ leg because he couldn’t make a field goal in overtime to win the game. It happens to be the second straight game with the Rams that Akers missed a potential game-winner.
Akers didn’t throw the ball away for a safety; Kaepernick did. Akers didn’t call a silly taser formation on a third-and-short deep inside their own territory with mere minutes to go in a game; Harbaugh did. Akers didn’t run out of bounds inside two minutes to go; Kaepernick did. Akers didn’t settle for three points on the doorstep of the end zone; Harbaugh did. Akers didn’t drop a near-sure touchdown pass near the goal-line; Delanie Walker did.
If time keeps ticking in regulation late in the fourth quarter, there’s a chance the Rams don’t have enough time to get in field goal range. If the 49ers score a touchdown, with the way the St. Louis offense had been performing all day, there’s a great chance they don’t get near the end zone.
But with conservative play-calling and an under-experienced NFL quarterback under center, Harbaugh gave the Rams hope. Sometimes that’s all you need, because the better team, sans the mistakes on Sunday, was the 49ers.
The Rams defeat showed just how fined-tuned Harbaugh’s team has to play to win. In fights like these, mistake-free football is required. Harbaugh believes Kaepernick is the best option to do that.
A few more games like Sunday’s and the 49ers may be looking at a wild card spot instead of the NFC West title, especially if Kaepernick’s “hot hand” keeps cooling down.
Reach Peter Fournier at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/p_fournier.