NFC West: San Francisco 49ers

The Film Don’t Lie: 49ers

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
A weekly look at what the San Francisco 49ers must fix.

Rather than fixing something that is not broken -- as the Niners seemingly did in the first three weeks of the season by changing their offensive identity -- they must stay the course by continuing to pound the ball and stretch their runs against the Kansas City Chiefs, who will roll into Santa Clara this weekend after blowing out the New England Patriots on "Monday Night Football."

During the season's first three games, the 49ers floated away from their identity as a smashmouth, power-running team. And they paid for it with a 1-2 start.

In Week 3, they returned to their roots by riding Frank Gore, who rushed for 119 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles, and churning out 218 yards rushing as a team.

And ESPN Stats & Information came up with this nugget: Against the Eagles, the 49ers ran outside of the tackles 14 times and picked up 148 yards, the second-most yards they’ve gained there in a game since at least 2006. And it was the most rushing yards a team has had outside the tackles since the start of the 2013 season.

“This is about us being back to who we are,” Niners right guard Alex Boone said after the game. “Now we have to keep building on it, keep rolling and realize that we have a tough team coming to town in Kansas City. We have to just go out and continue to build on what we have done so far.”

The Chiefs have the 19th-ranked rush defense in the league, giving up 116.5 yards on the ground per game.
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh gave no medical updates Monday on the conditions of injured tight end Vernon Davis or right tackle Anthony Davis.

Vernon Davis, who was playing for the first time since injuring his left ankle and knee in Week 2, tweaked his back early in the second half Sunday and said after the game he was not “worried,” adding, “Everything should be cool,” before grimacing and walking off gingerly.

Anthony Davis, meanwhile, was hurt when Colin Kaepernick was sacked in the second quarter and he rolled up on the back of Davis’ left knee. Davis was making his season debut following offseason shoulder surgery and a left hamstring injury that ended his consecutive starts streak after four seasons.

Asked specifically about the right tackle’s knee injury, Harbaugh was cryptic.

“I’d hate to comment right now, before anything official," Harbaugh said.

“How severe? Too severe? Probably best not to comment until some official information (comes out).”

49ers find identity on offense

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- For three games, the San Francisco 49ers seemingly flitted about on offense, trying to rediscover their identity and figure out what to do with their new toys while stumbling out to a 1-2 start.

Sunday, they went back to their roots and ran the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles and, helped out mightily by their defense, the 49ers pounded out a 26-21 victory as a power-running team on the shoulders of running back Frank Gore and the legs of quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

"It’s who we are and I’m happy to be back to that," right guard Alex Boone said. "That is our identity, and we need to run the ball like that every week. It’s no surprise, and it was a good day for Frank and a good day for the offensive line, and a great day for Kap. A win is a win."

The 49ers rushed for 218 yards, 119 by Gore on 24 carries.

Last week, when he carried the ball only six times for 10 yards at the Arizona Cardinals, Gore was so despondent after the loss that he could not speak to reporters. Later in the week, he took the high road in saying he just wanted to win, regardless of the scheme -- the 49ers used four- and sometimes five-wideout sets in Arizona -- offensive coordinator Greg Roman employs.

Gore took a similar approach after beating the Eagles.

"I just think as a team we’ve got so many weapons," he said. "I think we’ve just got to do whatever it takes. Coach G-Ro calls a pass or a run, we’ve just got to fight for each other and get it done. We’ve got to talk and then do it. We’ve just got to go out there and do it.

"It was a tough game, but a great win. Philly is a great team. With our backs against the wall, it was a must-win."

And, as Boone would say, it was a must to re-establish their identity.

"This is about us being back to who we are,” he said. "Now we have to keep building on it, keep rolling and realize that we have a tough team coming to town in Kansas City. We have to just go out and continue to build on what we have done so far."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Antoine Bethea was a surprising addition to the San Francisco 49ers' injury report on Friday with an ankle issue that forced him to miss that day’s practice.

The 49ers strong safety, though, showed no ill effects Sunday as he made a couple of key plays in the 26-21 San Francisco victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, forcing a fumble and making an interception.

And, oh yes, it was his 100th straight start, the longest active streak by an NFL safety.

“It was as important to me,” he said. “That’s something I hold close, dear to my heart. Just being reliable, being able to have my coaches and teammates to rely on me week in and week out. That’s something I’ve really held on to [in] my career so far.”

Early in the third quarter, with the Eagles holding a 21-13 advantage, Bethea knocked the ball out of Eagles tight end Zach Ertz’s hands after a 3-yard reception and into the waiting arms of Niners cornerback Perrish Cox for a fumble recovery at the Eagles’ 23-yard line.

Eight plays later, the 49ers scored and crept to within 21-20.

Two Eagles possessions later, and with the Niners now leading 23-21, Bethea ran under Nick Foles’ long pass down the middle of the field for his 15th career interception, his first as a member of the 49ers.

“He was huge,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of Bethea. “He had some [pass breakups], had the interception, sharp, crisp tackling again.”

Bethea, who joined San Francisco as a free agent after eight seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, said the Niners worked on creating turnovers this week, when defensive coordinator Vic Fangio stressed the Eagles’ uptempo offense.

“It was very loud,” Bethea said. “He was calling in calls real late so the players would have to kind of scramble to get the plays and communicate. Made it real easy for us today on Sunday. I think that was a great coaching move by coach Vic.”

Some would even say better plays by Bethea.

49ers shut down LeSean McCoy

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The key for the San Francisco 49ers' defense in slowing the Philadelphia Eagles' high powered offense?

“To tackle No. 25,” said 49ers free safety Eric Reid, referring to Eagles All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy. “Which, we did.”

And then some.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
AP Photo/Ben MargotThe Niners held LeSean McCoy to just 17 yards on 10 carries.
The 49ers limited McCoy, who led the NFL in rushing last season with 1,607 yards, to a mere 17 yards on 10 carries. Darren Sproles carried the ball once for 4 yards, and quarterback Nick Foles was credited with a 1-yard rush.

That’s it. The 49ers' defense, roundly and perhaps rightly criticized this week for having only four sacks and three interceptions through a 1-2 start, responded Sunday and led the Niners to a 26-21 victory by pitching a shutout.

The Eagles’ touchdowns came on a blocked punt return, an interception return and a punt return.

Until Philadelphia drove from their own 9-yard line to the 49ers’ 1-yard line with 2 minutes to play, the Eagles had not crossed midfield. And with the game on the line, the defense again answered, keeping the Eagles out of the end zone after they had first-and-goal from the 5.

“The defense turned in a real gem,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “And they were getting off the field early in the possessions. The no-huddle attack, you don’t give them the first and second first down, the third first down. They were doing a heck of a job getting off [the field] between the first down and the second.”

And giving the Eagles no shot at establishing a running game.

Of course, Philadelphia’s makeshift offense line -- left tackle Jason Peters was the only regular in his usual spot, and he went down for a bit before returning -- helped the Niners’ attack. As Eagles coach Chip Kelly said, the 49ers were able to affect his passing game with only a three-man rush, which then allowed San Francisco to stack the box against the running game.

“I’m embarrassed,” McCoy said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Per ESPN Stats & Information data, the Eagles had only 6 yards after contact on 12 rushes and did not have multiple yards after contact on any rush.

So how, exactly, were the 49ers able to make McCoy & Co. non-factors?

“The safeties and I were talking the whole game about different ways to make sure we kept LeSean in the box, because of the way he was bouncing outside,” he said. “He’s really good at doing that, so we really talked the whole game about making sure we had an edge set, and I think for the most part we did a pretty good job."

Added inside linebacker Patrick Willis: “They do a lot of uptempo, fast-tempo offense and all it takes is for one guy to be out of place and they’ll find it. I feel like today we did a great job of communicating and making sure we played our defense.”
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the San Francisco 49ers' 26-21 defeat of the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi's Stadium:
  • Davis
    Tight end Vernon Davis, who left the game with a back injury early in the second half, briefly held court outside the Niners' locker room. He said he was not "worried" about the injury and added, "Everything should be cool." Then he grimaced and walked off gingerly. He missed the past week's game with left ankle and knee injuries.
  • The defense was such a story that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was summoned into the auditorium to speak from the podium. One thing that stood out to him from his unit's play? "No penalties on defense," he said proudly. But as a team, the 49ers, the most penalized team in the NFL, had 10 penalties for 80 yards.
  • Coach Jim Harbaugh called it "sloppy coaching by me" when breaking down why quarterback Colin Kaepernick essentially wasted the team's second timeout when he could not get the Eagles' defense to jump offsides on fourth-and-2 from Philadelphia's 43-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Harbaugh wanted to take a delay of game penalty if the Eagles did not jump but did not tell Kaepernick of the plan, he said.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers secondary might have taken another blow as strong safety Antoine Bethea missed practice Friday with an ankle injury and is listed as questionable to play in Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

He joins cornerback Tramaine Brock, who has not practiced since injuring a toe in the season opener at Dallas and is also listed as questionable.

Tight end Vernon Davis, who has been limited in practice all week after missing last week’s game, said he would be a "game-time decision."

Following is the 49ers’ status report for Sunday:

OUT: C Marcus Martin (knee)

QUESTIONABLE: SS Bethea (ankle), CB Brock (toe), RT Anthony Davis (hamstring), TE Davis (ankle/knee), TE Vance McDonald (knee)

PROBABLE: WR Michael Crabtree (quadricep), RB Frank Gore (back), DL Justin Smith (not injury related), LB Patrick Willis (wrist).
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Hindsight is always 20/20, and it’s supposed to help forecast the future with more clarity.

So with that in mind, and with the memory of Frank Gore only carrying the ball six times for 10 yards in the San Francisco 49ers’ 23-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals still fresh as the Niners prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles, was Gore underutilized?

“With what [the Cardinals] were doing going into the game, I mean, they were selling out, like, full, waving-the-flag selling out to stop the run,” Niners offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Thursday. “You always want to get Frank involved, but again, you’ve got to kind of weigh how much, when and how. And then you’ve got to factor in everything that you think is going to happen and then everything that is actually happening.”

[+] EnlargeGreg Roman
AP Photo/Jeff ChiuSan Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said he will continue to play to his team's strengths and opponents' weaknesses.
Fair enough, but Gore only carried the ball once in the second half – the second play of the half – and the Niners held a 14-6 lead at halftime.

“So, you got to be fluid with it,” Roman continued. “I think, for example last week, we had a plan that was different than the one we utilized early in the game and the other plan was working pretty good. So, shoot, we’re not getting to that other plan. And that’s pretty much every week, to be honest with you.”

Against the Eagles, and especially with tight ends Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald potentially healthy enough to play and right tackle Anthony Davis possibly making his season debut after offseason shoulder surgery and a troublesome left hamstring in the early weeks of the season, the Niners would be wise to revert to form with their power running game to better keep the Eagles’ high-powered offense of the field, right?

“Well, I definitely think that those guys are guys that you have to factor into the equation,” Roman said. “And whenever they do come back, things tilt certain ways and you always want to work to your strengths or away from their weaknesses, or away from your weaknesses or at their weaknesses.”

And while Gore put on his best face earlier in the week to say he was good with whatever game plan came his way, as long as it helped the team win, there are questions.

Such as, can a team switch its identity on the fly and continue to be successful, or does it create problems?

“Not really. You go back to two years ago, the playoffs, we were basically a spread team,” Roman said. “We played the Packers and Atlanta. And you can run spread concepts out of any personnel group; that’s what most people don’t quite get.

“But no, it really doesn’t [cause problems]. It’s all about the players. Who do you have, what are their strengths?”

Eagles vs. 49ers preview

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
For the second consecutive season, the San Francisco 49ers are 1-2. The Philadelphia Eagles, meanwhile, are 3-0 for the first time in a decade.

The Niners have been outscored 52-3 in the second half; the Eagles have dropped 74 points on opponents after halftime.

Can the 49ers buck those trends? NFL Nation reporters Paul Gutierrez, who covers the 49ers, and Phil Sheridan, who covers the Eagles, break down the Week 4 matchup:

Paul Gutierrez: Last year, LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing. This year, albeit only three games in, Nick Foles has the most passing yards in the league. Have the Eagles changed their identity or is this just a byproduct of Chip Kelly’s offense?

Phil Sheridan: I guess the best way to say it is the Eagles have been forced to change their identity, and that was possible as a byproduct of Kelly’s offense. I can explain that. Kelly’s approach is to figure out what a defense is trying to do, or is good at, and gear his offense toward the areas where that defense is vulnerable. So if defenses are loading up to stop McCoy and the run game, as they have in the three games so far, then Kelly will make them pay by throwing the ball. Washington, especially, packed the box and played close to the line of scrimmage on Sunday. McCoy had no room, especially behind an injury-ravaged offensive line. But Foles was able to find plenty of open receivers behind that run-oriented defense. If the Niners go blitz-happy in an effort to slow down Foles and the receivers, Kelly will serve up an adult-sized portion of McCoy.

My first and most obvious question is, what the heck is going on with those Niners? Most people expected them to challenge Seattle to be the best team in the league, not flop around among the worst. In a nutshell, are they just a win away from being back on track, or do the problems run deeper?

Gutierrez: Your answer to what’s eating them is as good as any they’ve offered publicly. But to play sports sociologist, chew on this -- the team that leads the NFL in arrests the past three years is also leading the NFL in penalties through three games. Undisciplined much? They added weapons to an offense that was going to have to compensate for a beat-up defense that is missing three starters in its front seven and breaking in three new starters in the secondary. They are still trying to establish an identity on offense -- power-running outfit or spread offense? And while the national storyline is that Jim Harbaugh is losing the locker room, I’d offer up the notion that his team is actually taking on his wild-eyed persona on the sideline, complete with histrionics and antics whenever a penalty flag flies its way. And yet . . . yes, winning is the ultimate deodorant. And if they can pull it together Sunday and hand the Eagles their first loss of the season, that would go a long way toward righting the SS 49er.

It seemed like that physical game against Washington took its toll on the Eagles, especially the offense. What’s the latest on guys’ health this week?

Sheridan: It was physical. Foles took something like 15 hits in that game. He said he was a little more sore than usual, but nothing too serious. Carry that over to the other 52 men on the roster and the Eagles were definitely feeling it after this game. They were coming off a short week, too. At least they’ve had a full week to recover and prepare for the Niners. They will be without center Jason Kelce, who went down with a sports hernia. That makes three-fifths of their starting line out of commission, with right guard Todd Herremans sliding out to play right tackle. The players know they will be tested until they prove they can handle it. The Niners’ biggest challenge may be deciding which part of the line to attack. Only left tackle Jason Peters will be lined up where he belongs.

How are the Niners coping with the absence of Aldon Smith and the other defensive players who are missing? Do they have the firepower to slow down the Eagles’ explosive offense?

Gutierrez: Sure, they knew it would take more than one player to replicate the pass rush generated by Smith, who has 42 sacks in 43 career games, though he is serving a nine-game suspension. But Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier have yet to record a sack, and as a team, the Niners have only four in three games, with three by Justin Smith and one by Ahmad Brooks. I get the sense the 49ers themselves are surprised with the lack of a pass rush. I asked Skuta this week how they could generate it, and he said it was simply a matter of executing and each player doing his respective job. So I asked if it was a matter of scheme or desire. Skuta again said execution. If the Niners have any designs on slowing the Eagles, especially in the second half, they are going to have to take advantage of a weakened offensive line.

As such, the 49ers are the only team in the NFL yet to score a TD in the second half, having been outscored by a combined 52-3 after halftime. The Eagles, though, have scored more than 70 points after halftime. Are the Philly coaches that adept at making halftime adjustments, or does the nature of the Eagles’ offense simply wear down defenses so much that such success is inevitable in the game’s final 30 minutes?

Sheridan: It’s probably a combination of those factors plus one more: The Eagles have been outscored 54-27 before halftime. And 21 of those points came against Washington Sunday. Those poor starts have created a crisis atmosphere in the second half, and that is something the Eagles very much want to improve upon. But it is true they have rebounded with strong second halves. That has a lot to do with Kelly’s staff being pretty smart about what’s going on and how to correct it. And it has something to do with the Eagles’ conditioning. They do everything at a higher tempo, and they really believe that takes a toll on opponents. It certainly has been true that the Eagles have looked sharper, stronger and just plain better in the fourth quarter of all three of their games.

Before Chip Kelly came to the NFL from the Pac-12, Jim Harbaugh made the jump from Stanford. Is there a feeling that Harbaugh will stick around or could he be looking for a chance to jump back to the college game?

Gutierrez: Depends upon whom you talk to and the day of the week. It is true Harbaugh still has a year remaining on his contract and talks have been tabled until after the end of this season. But there’s a reason the rumors of discord between the coach and front office won’t go away. And now the rumor mill is working the Ann Arbor angle, what with Michigan, Harbaugh’s alma mater, potentially looking for a coach this winter. Plus, put this one away for a while: Could you imagine Harbaugh taking his khakis up the Bay to Oakland? It was with the Raiders where Harbaugh cut his NFL coaching teeth, after all.

San Francisco 49ers backup tight end Vance McDonald, who has not practiced since injuring his right knee against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 14, practiced in a limited fashion Thursday, and inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who sat out practice Wednesday with a wrist injury, was a full participant.

Receiver Michael Crabtree was a new addition to the injury report with a quadriceps issue, though he was a full participant.

The 49ers’ injury report for Thursday:

Did not participate: CB Tramaine Brock (toe), C Marcus Martin (knee).

Limited participation: T Anthony Davis (hamstring), TE Vernon Davis (ankle, knee), TE Vance McDonald (knee).

Full participation: Michael Crabree (quadriceps), RB Frank Gore (back), DE Justin Smith (not injury related), LB Patrick Willis (wrist).

49ers searching for a pass rush

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
The San Francisco 49ers have only four sacks through three games. They also have only three interceptions in getting out to a 1-2 start.

So in the chicken-or-the-egg question of the day, are sacks a by-product of good coverage, or does pressure on the quarterback result in picks? More to the point, which has been the bigger issue for the 49ers this season -- lack of pressure on the quarterback, or passive coverage?

"Both," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Thursday. "Equally."

The 49ers have a unique challenge this weekend, then, with the Philadelphia Eagles and their high-powered offense coming to Santa Clara to test out a unit that has been outscored 52-3 in the second half. The Eagles have dropped 74 points on opponents after halftime through three games.

Might the 49ers have to break out some of their more exotic blitz packages to keep the Eagles off balance?

"You always think about that," Fangio said. "You can’t play good pass defense in this league without good pass rush, and they go hand in hand. You can’t have good pass rush without good coverage. So, we’ve had to call on it a little bit more lately here, last week. Hope to not have to play that way all the time."

In Arizona, the Niners blitzed on 14 of 40 pass plays, including plays wiped out by penalties, rushing six players three times and seven players twice, according to Pro Football Focus.

They did not sack Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton.

Thus far, three of the 49ers' sacks have come courtesy of defensive lineman Justin Smith, the other by linebacker Ahmad Brooks.

It was obvious entering the season the Niners were going to have to compensate for Aldon Smith's nine-game suspension in terms of pass rush. He does, after all, have 42 sacks in 43 career games.

But neither Dan Skuta, whose career 1/2 sack came for the Cincinnati Bengals and against the 49ers' quarterback Alex Smith in 2011, nor Corey Lemonier, who has one career sack, have provided much of a threat ... yet.

"Just contnue to chip away at it and work, just the way we’re going to fix anything else that we need to work on," said Skuta, who shared that lone sack with Chris Crocker. "Just keep working on it. Really, we have to work well as a group, you know. I think we’ve got to do a better job of pass-rushing as a whole group up front. Just keep knocking away at it and I think we’ll be good."

Then is it about desire, or scheme?

"I don’t think it’s scheme," Skuta said. "It’s just playing together more and working well with the guys inside and getting that chemistry."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Frank Gore tried to his best to hide his disappointment in the San Francisco 49ers’ locker room Wednesday afternoon. A veteran in his 10th season, he knows better than to lash out at teammates, coaches and game plans.

And yet, it’s obvious something is amiss with him as the Niners’ offensive identity went from a power running game behind Gore to a somewhat gimmicky spread-type offense last weekend against the Arizona Cardinals.

“I just feel that we, I just feel that we just have to, for me, I just feel that whatever works, I’m with it,” Gore said. “If it’s passing, it’s passing. We pass the ball. If it’s running, we run.

“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win, and if we’ve got to go out there and do the spread again, I’m with it. That’s what type of player I am. I just want to win.”

Except it did not work against the Cardinals. Sure, showing sets with four and five receivers caught Arizona off guard and the Niners were able to get out to a 14-6 halftime lead.

But in the second half, when it seemingly should have been Gore Time to maintain the lead, he only touched the ball once. On the second play of the second half. That’s it.

Gore finished with six carries for 10 yards. And in the first half, it was rookie Carlos Hyde who had his number called for a 6-yard touchdown run.

“Frank’s not someone that needs his spirits to be kept up,” said quarterback Colin Kaepernick. “I always talk to him regardless of what’s going on, but he’s going to come and give his best effort every week and he’s shown that.”

As a team, the Niners rushed for 82 yards, 54 by Kaepernick. The 49ers passed the ball 37 times, and Kaepernick’s 29 completions were a career-high.

“Whatever the coaches feel is going to help us win, I’m with it,” Gore said.

Surely, against the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend, Gore has to be confident that he’ll be a bigger part of the offense to keep the Eagles’ high-octane offense off the field, right?

Said coach Jim Harbaugh: “I would see no reason why he wouldn’t be confident in that regard.”
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis, who missed last week’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals with injuries to his left ankle and knee, was on the field for stretching at the beginning of the San Francisco 49ers’ practice on Wednesday, though he appeared to be a spectator during position drills.

Right tackle Anthony Davis, who missed the first three games dealing with a left hamstring issue, also was on the practice field for the first time since the season began.

Cornerback Tramaine Brock (toe) was not practicing and neither was backup tight end Vance McDonald (right knee).

Rookie center Marcus Martin, who injured a knee in Week 3 of the preseason, was working on a side field with a trainer while defensive tackle Justin Smith, who gets the usual Wednesday "veteran’s off day," and linebacker Patrick Willis (another vet’s day?) were running sprints nearby.
As Colin Kaepernick goes, so go the San Francisco 49ers?

The Niners have been outscored 52-3 in the second half of games thus far, the worst such margin in the NFL. That's a teamwide meltdown. But Kaepernick plays the most important position in team sports, and as the saying goes, quarterbacks get too much credit when things are going well and too much blame when they're going in the toilet.

It's all about "execution," or lack thereof after halftime, Kaepernick said from behind sunglasses at the podium after Sunday's 23-14 loss at the Arizona Cardinals.

In the first half, Kaepernick is averaging 7.9 yards per pass attempt, has thrown four touchdown passes with an interception and has been sacked once, per ESPN Stats & Info. His total quarterback rating in the game's first 30 minutes? A robust 84.8.

In the second half, he is averaging 6.8 yards per pass attempt with no touchdowns, two interceptions and five sacks. His total quarterback rating after halftime is a sickly 29.3.

The knee-jerk reaction is to suppose the Niners are not making proper halftime adjustments, that Jim Harbaugh's staff is getting, well, outcoached. Harbaugh was asked Monday whether he was "comfortable" with how his coaches adjust.

"Well, I feel good about it," he said. "Like I said, I feel really good about our coaches' process of how we do things. I feel good about our football team, everybody that's in that locker room. And continuing to strive to fix, to improve, to get better is what we'll do."

In regard to Kaepernick, though, the numbers showed last week that he has better success against the blitz than against standard pressure. And yet, his pressure percentage against the blitz (sacked, under duress or hit while throwing) is 35 percent in the first half and jumps up to 59 percent in the second half.

Again, ESPN Stats & Info broke down his numbers by half when facing five or more rushers. In the first half, he completes 77.8 percent of his passes with an 8.9 yards-per-attempt average and is sacked 5 percent of the time with a total QB rating of 97.7 when facing such a rush. After halftime, those numbers fall to a 58.3 completion percentage with 7.3 yards per attempted pass, a sack percentage of 18 percent and a total QB rating of 24.7 with five or more defenders coming at him.

Sunday, in the immediate wake of the loss that dropped the 49ers to 1-2, Kaepernick could not put his finger on why it seems like a different team emerges from the halftime locker room.

"I really can't say one thing," he said. "We just haven't executed the way we should."

The numbers prove it.

The Film Don't Lie: 49ers

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
A weekly look at what the 49ers must fix:

You knew the San Francisco 49ers' pass rush would suffer early in the season with outside linebacker Aldon Smith serving a nine-game suspension. But the lack of a relative threat thus far has been shocking, and the Philadelphia Eagles, who boast a quick-hitting, high-scoring offense, could present a recipe for disaster for the Niners if they can't figure it out -- and quick.

"Obviously, when you win, nobody pays attention to those plays that you could play better at," said inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who is without a sack this season and was called for a critical and questionable roughing the passer penalty on Sunday.

The 49ers have only four sacks this season; Eagles QB Nick Foles, who leads the NFL with 978 yards passing, has not been sacked since Week 1. In fact, so invisible was the 49ers' pass rush against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, quarterback Drew Stanton had so much time to throw, his average depth of target was 16.7 yards, the highest such figure of any quarterback since Tim Tebow's 16.7 in Week 11 of the 2011 season, per Pro Football Focus. Plus, 13 of Stanton's 33 pass attempts were at least 20 yards downfield, the most by any quarterback this season.

Not even blitzes were working against the Cardinals, as the Niners brought it on 14 of 40 pass plays, including plays wiped out by penalty; they Niners also rushed six players three times and twice they brought seven, per PFF.

The Niners, who did not blitz a defensive back at all in Weeks 1 and 2, sent Jimmie Ward seven times and Perrish Cox four times.

Blitzing that much against the Eagles might be playing into their hands.