With seven games remaining on the schedule, the San Francisco 49ers are on track to lose more games than they did in 2011 and 2012, having dropped three of their first nine. The division has slipped away from the reigning conference and back-to-back NFC West champs, which truly validates this as a Super Bowl hangover.
The week-to-week confidence in this team is no longer there, as it has progressively earned the label of "inconsistent." Last season, like clockwork, the team was served up a non-win every third game. This year, the 49ers have not beaten a single opponent above .500 since the Week 1 victory over the visiting Green Bay Packers.
Meanwhile, the three teams they've lost to have a combined record of 21-7.
Following this past loss to the Carolina Panthers, there must be substantial in-house concern regarding the team's ability to get to the postseason, as well as how effective it can be if and when it arrives. Touting the NFL's worst passing offense is certainly not doing it any favors.
There are questions surrounding the quarterback, the play-calling and whether or not this team can stay healthy.
All things considered, the 49ers need to see increased productivity from several spots across the roster. After reviewing the Week 10 matchup, we were able to evaluate and grade each player's individual performance with a brief commentary on how they played and what level they're playing at in 2013.
- Expectations: Some players can look really good out there, but how much did they leave on the field?
- Statistics: If you were blanked, booming or something in between, this plays a significant role as to how a player is graded.
- Impact: Stats are great and all, but did those yards come in garbage time or on a 3rd-and-long? The clutch value factors in here.
- Consistency: One big play can change a game, but consistency down-to-down can make sure you win it. Who was bringing it on every play?
Statistically, this was the least-productive outing of Colin Kaepernick’s pro career, as he only netted 46 passing yards (accounting for lost yardage on sacks). He completed just 50 percent of his passes, threw no touchdowns for the fourth time in nine games and tossed one interception late to Panthers cornerback Drayton Florence.
Stunningly bad, some may say. His fourth-quarter pick sealed the game and it was a head-scratcher, seeing as how Kap blatantly pushed it into loaded coverage.
At the same time, the running threat fans all know and love was also invisible. Though he was flushed out of the pocket on several occasions, he only managed but one notable gainer up the middle of the field for 16 yards.
Reverting to the shell-shocked version of himself, Kaepernick lacked the confidence we had seen in him during this five-game win streak. He was not performing with that killer instinct and did not play a technically clean game.
Dilfer just now on ESPN: Take away Kaepernick's first read and he becomes "remedial" as a passer.— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@SandoESPN) November 11, 2013
Frank Gore: A
What do you know? Frank Gore was the single most productive offensive player for the 49ers on Sunday.
The criminal part was that he didn’t finish with more touches. He had 82 yards on the ground, averaging 5.1 yards per carry in the process. Gore also had two catches on two targets for 21 yards, surpassing 100 all-purpose yards. Even after losing Vernon Davis for the game, Greg Roman only gave Gore two carries in the second half.
Kendall Hunter: C
The 49ers' relief back barely had any opportunities to run the football, which is no surprise seeing as how Gore didn’t have nearly enough either. Hunter picked up just eight yards on three attempts. He was also targeted once but did not come up with a reception.
LaMichael James: B-
Not a great debut as a runner/receiver for James, as he had no receptions and one attempt for minus-one yard. But who knows what offensive coordinator Greg Roman was thinking by using his one carry on a dive when James is naturally an outside runner. So his grade goes up when you count his work as a punt returner, as he averaged 11.7 yards per attempt.
Anthony Dixon: N/A
No. 4 tailback Anthony Dixon did not have any carries today or any tackles on special teams. He was relatively quiet overall. He did, however, take out a kick return late in the game that he had no business bringing out of the end zone. He was stonewalled at the 11-yard line and set up the offense with terrible field position.
Bruce Miller: B+
Fullback Bruce Miller had another very good game for the 49ers, run blocking for Frank Gore and providing an outlet for the quarterback. Operating in this expanded role, he had a 10-yarder to move the sticks early on, on a day were first downs were really few and far between. He played well in an ugly game.
Vernon Davis (+): N/A
For the second time this season, Vernon Davis had to leave in the middle of a game with an injury. This time, the 49ers' star tight end had to retreat to the locker room early on after banging his head against the turf. He had one reception for two yards on two targets before checking out for the day.
Vance McDonald: D+
Rookie tight end Vance McDonald was left all alone after Vernon Davis and Garrett Celek were ruled out of the game. He was still only targeted twice but came up with no catches. One of those missed targets was a notable drop on what was Kap’s best throw of the day.
McDonald has to become a more reliable receiving option going forward.
Vernon Davis missed the Indianapolis game (loss) and went out early in this one (loss). Pull him out of the offense, the 49ers struggle.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) November 11, 2013
Anquan Boldin: D+
Again, more is expected of Anquan Boldin since he continues to function as the primary receiver with others still easing their way back. On just five targets, Boldin was only able to come up with 23 yards. The Niners really could’ve used more out of him this past week.
Mario Manningham: B+
Surprisingly, in his first game back in action since last December, Mario Manningham led the 49ers in receiving (though that isn’t saying much).
He capped off the day with three grabs for 30 yards. Kap looked his way more than anybody, putting it on him six times. Considering what he is coming back from and what this game meant, this was a successful debut for Manningham.
Kyle Williams: D-
For the first time this season, Kyle Williams did not have the burden of being the No. 2 wide receiver. He had Mario Manningham and Anquan Boldin outside and still was not able to thrive in a complementary role. Williams finished with one catch for five yards and one drop.
Manningham has many catches today as Kyle Williams had in the previous 5 weeks.— Kyle Bonagura (@KyleBonagura) November 10, 2013
Joe Staley: C+
Not his best performance, that’s for sure. Anytime the offensive line surrenders six sacks on the day, no player is exempt from criticism, especially the longest-tenured man who essentially captains the unit. In a fistfight, Joe Staley did not help this unit set the tone from the get-go and struggled to contain the edges.
Mike Iupati: C
The 49ers' Pro Bowl left guard did not have a characteristic performance, especially when it came to pass-protection situations. The Panthers ends were working their way inside and Greg Hardy wound up having himself a day, racking up four tackles, which included one sack, two tackles for a loss and one QB hit.
Jonathan Goodwin: D
49ers center Jonathan Goodwin got worked versus rookie defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and this Carolina defensive line. It seemed like every other snap, the pocket collapsed from the inside out, leaving Kap to bail from the play and improvise before he wanted to.
Alex Boone: C
Dwan Edwards and Star Lotulelei were guys who had their names called on Sunday and shouldn’t have. The interior defensive linemen provided problems for this front, and more often than not, it is Alex Boone who greatly aids in shutting down the presence inside. He, like the rest of his linemates, was out of sync.
Anthony Davis: C-
Beat like he stole something; that’s the expression. Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson brought it to 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis this past week, getting by him for five tackles, two tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. This was not one of his best games as a pro.
Justin Smith: B+
One player who consistently shows up is 49ers All-Pro tackle Justin Smith, who was one of the defensive standouts in Week 10. He led the D-line in tackles with five, including one for a loss. "The Cowboy" also had numerous QB hurries on Cam Newton and created opportunities for the outside linebackers. Regrettably, the Panthers were able to still pound the rock.
Glenn Dorsey: C+
Not the worst game, but not the best game, either. Since he’s arrived, Dorsey’s value has been stopping the run. The 49ers did not necessarily get that done, allowing themselves to be hit up for 111 yards and a touchdown. Dorsey’s day was not a total bust, though—he did pile up four tackles with one behind the line of scrimmage.
Ray McDonald: N/A
Even though he has been playing through a partially torn biceps, 49ers veteran DT Ray McDonald was injured further on Sunday. He had to leave the game with an ankle injury. He had two tackles before exiting the game.
Tony Jerod-Eddie: B-
Considering he had to come in under such circumstances and still managed to make an impact, it is hard to say anything bad about Tony Jerod-Eddie. He has clearly emerged as the primary backup defensive tackle, even with Quinton Dial and Demarcus Dobbs on the active 46. Jerod-Eddie finished with four total tackles, including three solo takedowns.
Corey Lemonier: C-
After a convincing five-game showing in Aldon Smith’s absence, Corey Lemonier simmered down in Week 10.
He was blanked in the box score, failing to register a single tackle or pass deflection on the day. With Smith seeing limited snaps, the Niners could’ve used more of a pass rush from Lemonier.
Patrick Willis was right up there in tackles, coming up with six solos and one assist versus the Panthers. He was tracking down the ball fairly well, making two splash plays in particular: (1) Blowing up the screen to DeAngelo Williams, and (2) shooting the gap and taking down Cam Newton for a sack.
However, it is on Willis to set the tempo and prevent teams from establishing a balance against his defense. Carolina was able to do that to a degree.
NaVorro Bowman: B
As per usual, NaVorro Bowman led the 49ers in tackles on the day, piling up seven solo takedowns. However, it wasn’t a perfect game by any means. No. 53 played a little out of character, dropping an interception that hit him right in the hands. The Carolina ground game also got rolling on him and Willis.
Ahmad Brooks: A+
If this were the NHL, Ahmad Brooks would be your first star of the game. He was a full-fledged beast out there, getting his hands into just about everything. He had five tackles, including three for a loss, and one pass deflection. Brooks also secured the hat trick in the sack column with 3.0.
Dan Skuta: B+
Dan Skuta had a terrific game for the Niners on Sunday. He had four tackles, including one for a loss, and two pass breakups. He also had multiple near-sacks. However, on DeAngelo Williams’ 27-yard touchdown run, Williams broke it to Skuta’s side, which knocks this grade down a notch.
Aldon Smith: N/A
According to Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, 49ers rush linebacker Aldon Smith only played 11 of 66 possible defensive snaps in his return from the non-football injury list in Week 10. It is hard to give him a grade with such a limited sample.
However, when he was on the field, he did create opportunities for fellow linebacker Ahmad Brooks and also had a nice bull rush to push the pocket back in Cam Newton’s face on his first snap back.
Tarell Brown: C+
Frankly, the 49ers' No. 1 cornerback only had one strong play of the game, and that was stretching out for a pass deflection in stride down the left sideline. Unfortunately, tailback DeAngelo Williams schooled him on his scoring run, causing him to whiff on the tackle with two others. Brown also drew flags in coverage, which seems to be happening to him more often in 2013.
Carlos Rogers: C+
Rogers has struggled to bounce back to his Pro Bowl form from 2011, and Sunday’s matchup versus Cam Newton and the Panthers didn’t help matters much. Even though the 49ers did not let up a 100-yard receiver, Rogers was out of position at times and did not tackle well.
Tramaine Brock: B+
49ers' emerging star cornerback Tramaine Brock registered his fourth interception of the season, which is a team high. He has played the best football out of all the team’s corners this season, and has done so on a consistent basis—tackling, covering and generally executing well within this defense.
Brock has four picks in the last five games. This last one he brought back for 41 yards.
Perrish Cox: N/A
The Carolina Panthers don’t have four wide receivers any more than the 49ers have four capable wide receivers. Therefore, reserve cornerback Perrish Cox was not called to action very much on Sunday. Just to note, when he has had to step into the lineup, he has played fairly well.
Eric Reid (+): N/A
One tackle was all Eric Reid was able to come up with before having to exit the game with a presumed concussion.
He was involved in a violent collision and was down on the field for several minutes. For the second time this season, Reid will have to go through the league-mandated concussion protocol.
Donte Whitner: B
49ers strong safety Donte Whitner was not victimized in pass coverage and managed to finish third in tackles behind NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis (four solos, two assists). It was a solid effort put forth by the veteran safety, who, for most of the game, had to make up for the loss of his partner in crime.
Eric Reid appeared to sustain a concussion, his second of the season (Week 2). #49ers— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) November 10, 2013
Andy Lee: A+
Boy, oh boy. Andy Lee was a busy guy on Sunday. The 49ers' superstar punter had seven total punts for, wait for it…341 yards (Reminder: San Francisco had 46 net yards of passing offense). He had an average of 48.7 yards per punt, a long of 60 and was able to pin Carolina back inside its 20-yard line on one occasion.
Phil Dawson: A
All-Pro place-kicker Phil Dawson did everything he was asked to and managed to account for 100 percent of San Francisco’s point total this past week. He went 3-of-3 from the field, including a 52-yarder. Unfortunately, he did not have an opportunity to knock any extra points through.
The 49ers did a very good job bottling up Ted Ginn Jr., who is an explosive threat when back returning kicks. Fortunately, special teams ace C.J. Spillman was able to win that chess match for San Francisco. As far as the return game, the Niners were not privileged to have great field position in this one.
Anthony Dixon mistakenly taking it out of the end zone in the fourth quarter was perhaps the worst decision by the return team. On the other hand, LaMichael James provided an interesting new prospect on the punt-return team. He averaged 11.7 yards per attempt and had a long of 18 yards.