SAN FRANCISCO – The 49ers lived up to their ranking on Sunday.
And that’s not a good place to be when you’re talking about the NFL’s lowest-rated passing attack.
The 49ers’ lowly aerial numbers have been camouflaged by the fact the 49ers were riding a five-game win streak that consisted of five consecutive double-digit victories in which the team scored 30 points or more.
But the numbers said it all Sunday in the 49ers’ 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Candlestick Park.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was held to a career-low of 91 yards passing. Not only was it the only time in his 19-start NFL career that he’s been held under triple digits, but he was also sacked six times for minus-45 yards.
“They’re a good defense,” Kaepernick said of the Panthers, “but today was more our lack of execution than what they were doing.
“We have to execute better, all around. We just have to go out and be able to make plays.”
Wide receiver Mario Manningham returned to action for the first time since late last season due to a knee injury. And he was the 49ers’ leading receiver. But his team-high total was just three receptions for 30 yards.
“It’s unacceptable,” 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. “We have a number of weapons on offense. We just have to do a better job of making it happen.”
The 49ers had been one of the hottest teams in the NFL with their win streak coming after consecutive losses to Seattle and Indianapolis. The 49ers came off the bye week and looked thoroughly inept on offense.
The 49ers converted on just two of 13 third-down opportunities, and settled for three Phil Dawson field goals in the first half. The 49ers gained a measly 106 yards of total offense in the first half, only to follow that up with a minuscule 46 yards in the second half on six possessions.
“It’s a sinking feeling,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We didn’t get the job done as a team. We’ll bounce back. We’ll come storming back.”
Kaepernick and the passing game was ineffective, and the game ended in fitting fashion with Panthers defensive back Drayton Florence intercepting a pass in the closing seconds. Kaepernick attempted a deep throw for Manningham that was picked off at the 49ers’ 42-yard line.
“We were trying to take a shot down the sideline,” Kaepernick said. “It’s desperation mode. We’re trying to get down the field to be able to kick a field goal.”
Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman could not push the right buttons, as the 49ers managed just 10 first downs in the game. Six of those first downs came on the ground. Running back Frank Gore gaining 82 yards on 16 rushing attempts.
The 49ers played the second half without tight end Vernon Davis, who exited late in the second quarter with a concussion. Even with Davis on the field, the 49ers’ offense didn’t do much. He caught one pass for 2 yards before his injury.
Things only got worse without their most dangerous pass-catcher on the field.
“Vernon changes defenses,” Kaepernick said. “He makes them adjust differently. He makes them do things that they don’t normally do. He’s a big loss.”