SANTA CLARA – The first full season of Colin Kaepernick as the 49ers’ starter is not going nearly as smoothly as a year ago when he took over on a full-time basis on Nov. 11.
Kaepernick took the NFL by storm after replacing Alex Smith. In 10 starts, including the playoffs, Kaepernick averaged 240.6 yards passing. He threw for 302 yards in the 49ers’ Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
In nine starts this season, the 49ers rank last in the NFL in passing yards, and Kaepernick is throwing for just 186.1 yards per game. And that's including his performance in Week 1, during which he torched the Green Bay Packers for 412 yards in the first game of the season.
The 49ers' passing game had its worst game on Sunday, managing just 46 net yards in a 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Candlestick Park. Kaepernick completed 11 of 22 pass attempts for a career-low 91 yards with one interception.
Coach Jim Harbaugh deflected all specific questions about Kaepernick to the overall state of the offense.
“The way we look at it as a unit,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “The unit, offensively, didn’t play well enough to win the game. Now across the board, we think about accountability for that and have fingerprints on it. But (I’m) not going to go to through and dissect it position by position, raking anybody over the coals.
“I don’t think that’s the best thing for us. We have a tough game coming up. And we’re not going to wallow in it. We’re moving on to New Orleans.”
Running back Frank Gore accounted for more than half of the 49ers’ 151 total yards with 82 yards rushing on 16 carries. But the 49ers’ first two drives stalled when Gore was stopped on minus-1-yard rushing attempts on third-and-short situations.
The 49ers converted just two of their 13 third-down opportunities.
“Offensively, not getting into a rhythm there, moving the ball, picking up consecutive first downs enough, we didn’t play well enough,” Harbaugh said.
The Panthers appeared to do a good job of taking away Kaepernick’s first read and causing indecision. The initial protection often looked sufficient, but plays routinely broke down and Kaepernick ended up being sacked six times for 45 yards.
Right tackle Anthony Davis surrendered a couple of sacks, while Joe Staley, tight end Vernon Davis and Mike Iupati also got beaten in pass protection. A couple of times, the Panthers outschemed the 49ers with unblocked blitzers.
Why didn’t Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman try to slow down the Panthers pass rush with screen passes?
“It’s not a bad point,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a point well-taken.”