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Lowell Cohn: Extra week to plan, nothing to show


You just knew they'd get the field goal. These were the San Francisco 49ers, after all. This is a team made for drama, made for dramatic endings and dramatic wins. This team drips with drama.

So, how did the 49ers do in the drama department?

On the first play, quarterback Colin Kaepernick got sacked for a loss of 6 yards. Not so good for the sake of drama. By the time the 49ers got to the line of scrimmage, just over 30 seconds remained. But remember these were the drama boys. And winning with time almost expiring would be the stuff of legends.

And then Kaepernick threw a pick as in a game-ending, game-killing, brain-rattling interception.

Sunday was the day the drama died in the old ballpark by the Bay. And that means the 49ers lost by one point, one measly point. Now we do some wordplay: Pathetic. Inept.

What was pathetic and inept about the 49ers?

Their offense was pathetic and inept.

Why was their offense pathetic and inept?

Because the 49ers had two weeks — count them — to prepare for the Panthers. Two weeks is double the usual prep time. The Panthers didn't have two weeks to prepare. You'd think the Niners would have spent their extra time wisely. But their main offensive planner — offensive coordinator Greg Roman — is inept, has been inept, will be inept.

As in pathetic.

In the entire game, the 49ers made 10 first downs. Pathetic. They gained only 151 net yards. More pathetic. They converted two of 13 third downs. Patheticker. Hey, I know, that's not a word. You need new words for what the Niners did or didn't do. And get this, they had 46 net yards passing. Pathetic to the max.

It simply is amazing that the 49ers could be this pathetic/inept/wretched/ dismal/feeble/incompetent/hopeless with all of that prep time.

Let's focus on one play in the second quarter. It is the hallmark of pathetic and inept, and you should know about it. The 49ers were leading 6-0 because the Panthers' offense wasn't so hot — I mean, Carolina was totally beatable. The Niners drove to the Carolina 2, had fourth and 1 at the 2.

You expected them to take the ball in, run that sucker right up the gut of the Panthers' defense. You expected the 49ers to assert themselves. Except they didn't. Kaepernick did that crazy stuff at the line, dipping his shoulders, calling out fake counts, the stuff that leads moron teams to jump offsides. But, get this, the league has no moron teams.

The Panthers knew what the 49ers were doing — duh — and they just watched the silliness. Then the Niners, of course, got whistled for delay of game and they moved back 5 yards and kicked and made the obligatory field goal, and led 9-zip when they could have led 13-zip. As you know, 13 points would have won the game.

Call the 49ers' non-play a failure of nerve by Roman and Jim Harbaugh. A brave team would have won the game right then and there. Afterward, reporters asked Harbaugh why the 49ers did not go for it on fourth down.

"We were out of a couple of personnel groups that we would have liked to be in in that situation," he said. "Garrett Celek and Vernon Davis were out, and we needed some time to move some personnel around to accommodate that situation. That factored into it."

Oh, please. Oh, give us a break. Don't double-talk us with personnel groupings. It's like the Niners wanted to beg, "Hey, Carolina, we don't have our personnel groupings. Can we stop play for about 10 minutes while we regroup our groupings?"

Niner dudes, you needed 1 yard for a first down, and then you'd get four more downs to get it in from the 1. Find the right groupings. Throw some big beefy guys in there. Take control of the game.

"It's not a good feeling when you don't prevail, especially when you have multiple chances to get it done," a sad Harbaugh said.

It's not a good feeling when you don't grab hold of the game at the crisis moment, the pivotal moment, and it's certainly not a good feeling when your offense is offensive, as in highly offensive.

I want to tell you something Bill Walsh said. And, yes, I often invoke Walsh because he knew football. We were taking a walk somewhere and he said he didn't like teams that exclusively played tough-guy football. "You'll eventually meet someone tougher and then what do you do?"

He meant you need something else besides toughness. You need another note or feature or aspect to your game that does not rely on brute strength because some day you will meet a bigger brute.

The 49ers try to be brutes and they met a bigger brute in the Panthers. Kaepernick completed 11 passes in four quarters. Eleven passes? And Carolina beat up the Niners, beat the (pick your word) out of them. Celek went down with a hamstring injury and Davis went down with a concussion and Eric Reid went down with a concussion. The 49ers got out-bruted and beat up, and they had no Plan B. Pathetic.

I don't want to hear from Harbaugh about the greatness of his players. He and Roman surely have not brought out the best in their offensive players. The 49ers had no passing game, and the coaches showed minimal creativity and zero imagination

And that brings us to the big picture because there most definitely is a big picture. The Seahawks — remember them? — lead the NFC West with a sterling record of 9-1. The 49ers now are 6-3. Chances are they won't win their division and that leads to many complications. The world just became a very hard place for the San Francisco 49ers.

<I>For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.</I>