In sports sometimes teams can get so caught up in the narrative of what is being written and spoken about them that the team begins to ignore the facts. The San Francisco 49ers find themselves in such a place.
The narrative coming into the season was now that Colin Kaepernick has gotten has big payday the team must be turned over to him offensively. That idea comes from those who think that his stats will justify his contract, when in fact it was winning that got him his new deal.
The 49ers are built on offense to run the football and to build off that in the play-action passing game. On Sunday, in their loss to the St. Louis Rams, Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde ran the ball a combined 16 times. Kaepernick had 33 pass attempts not including the five times he was sacked. That means the team attempted the pass the ball more than double the amount of times they tried to run the ball. It is not as if Sunday was a game where the team had to make up multiple scores and abandon the run game.
The two times this season that Gore has gotten the ball 18 times or more, he has rewarded the team with 100 yard performances. Jim Harbaugh is fully aware that Gore is the type of back that wears a team down over time. Defenses don’t want to tackle Gore in the fourth quarter because of his physical running style. Lately, the 49ers have not used this to their advantage.
The identity crisis is only heightened by the fact that the division leading Arizona Cardinals are 7-1 and already own a victory over the 49ers. The jury is still out to whether the Cardinals are the best team in the NFC as their record would indicate, but unlike the 49ers they know who they are.
The 49ers players are aware that the coaching staff seems confused about the best way to go about their business. According to Mercurynews.com Gore and Joe Staley basically said as much. “We’ve just got to make our minds up, do what we feel we’re good at and go do it. … We’re just too up and down,” Gore said.
“We’re doing some dumb stuff, and they took advantage of it,” left tackle Staley said. “Penalties, dumb blocks, dumb techniques, dumb schemes. We played like (expletive).”
This is not to say Kaepernick is playing poorly, he is just still at the point where he cannot carry an offense just by throwing the ball. To be fair, this is still just his second full season starting.
The narrative will continue to be that Kaepernick needs to take the next step in the progression of a quarterback. The facts remain that he is getting better; he and the offense simply are more productive when it is a run first offense.
Team’s often say they ignore the media and all the hype, the 49ers hopes of getting back to the NFC championship game and beyond may hinge on them doing just that.
Photo Credit: SFGate.com