In three of their four losses, Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers have had a chance to drive the field with the clock winding down and the game on the line. To say they have fallen flat under these circumstances would be a grand understatement.
Consider this: In three critical late game opportunities this year, Kap and the 49ers have have yielded -2 yards, a fumble, an interception, and NO first downs. It's not what you want to see from a team we know is capable of more.
Let's recap this:
It started against Indianapolis back in Week 3. There was 4:13 left on the game clock, and the 49ers needed some semblance of a two minute drill to climb back into the game. We were trailing 20-7 with one timeout.
- The result: -3 yards and a 3rd down strip-sack fumble recovered by the Colts at the 49ers 8 yard line.
Week Ten saw the 49ers get the ball back at the 20 with 1:02 on the clock and no timeouts. Down 10-9, they had to get in field goal range for the win. A tall order, sure, but the ensuing possession showed no competence or urgency.
- The result: -6 yards and an interception. The pick was only the icing, as a first down sack pretty much ended this one.
This past week, the 49ers got the ball back with 2:06 left and one timeout. The game was tied and a field goal drive could have sealed it.
- The result: Another huge first down sack, 7 net yards, and the Andy Lee treatment.
All year I've been hesitant to criticize Kaepernick, but in close games, he has shown a lack of pocket awareness and seemingly no confidence. He panics into allowing costly turnovers and hasn't helped his team to a single first down in these late situations. On Sunday, he looked lost when he almost caused a safety and then ran out of bounds instead of forcing the Saints to use their final timeout.
It's easy to put the blame on play calling, but inconsistency in the booth rightfully gives us reason to be suspect about Greg Roman's late game tactics. One knock on Roman is that he doesn't properly recognize and use personnel. This couldn't be more apparent late in games when he commits to questionable deep routes rather than dialing up quick ways to get players downfield in space. I bet those splash plays were popular when he coached high school in 2008. But this is the big leagues;
stop being stubborn it's time to adapt. Since I'm on the subject, will he ever work with his QB to find a way to get these f--ing plays relayed in time?
Even the O-line was below average in these situations. They have been blown up for a devastating sack EVERY SINGLE TIME. Pass protection has really been somewhat questionable all year, but it has been atrocious late in games.
It's time to get these things cleaned up. The good news is that we're 6-4 and our defense can keep us in any contest.
I don't think Kaepernick is entirely to blame, but it will be up to him to reverse this trend. He needs to dig deep and find some confidence in himself and his receivers. The best teams in the NFL find ways to win late in games, and we've all seen the 49ers do it before. But right now, it's hard to imagine many 49er fans have total confidence in this team's ability to come from behind, let alone in the closing minutes.