49ers' SB hopes hinge on WR play
Manningham, Crabtree returns will elevate S.F.'s stagnant passing attack
The loss to the Panthers dropped San Francisco to 2-3 against teams with a winning record, a stark contrast to last season's 5-2 mark.
Most of the pieces from last season's Super Bowl team are still in place. The 49ers have a league-leading 15 rushing touchdowns this season and are averaging 4.5 yards per rush, the same average as last season from Weeks 10 to 17 with Kaepernick at quarterback. Frank Gore is on pace for a second straight 1,400-yard season.
The 49ers' defense has allowed only a tenth of a point more per game this season, and the unit has been even tougher on quarterbacks. The 49ers' 35.7 Total QBR allowed is fourth in the NFL and nearly 15 points better than last season's 50.5 QBR allowed.
The biggest difference for the 49ers is in the passing game, and it's not a perceived regression by Kaepernick that's cause for alarm; it's a lack of receiving threats.
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Harbaugh's brother: Family staying out of it
- Peyton intent on playing for Broncos in 2015
- Aaron Claus: QB buys Packers linemen TVs
- Pettine: Manziel will get chance to compete