What Needs to Change in 49ers Offense in Week 5?


Oct 4, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) runs the ball against the Green Bay Packers in the fourth quarter at Levi

The San Francisco 49ers played much better defense in last Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers in a final score of 17-3. I was hoping that we would only lose by two touchdowns or so and not by the embarrassing margins against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals.

However one theme kept going, and that was the ineffective 49ers offense. In a disturbing trend so far, in each of the four games played, the point total has gone down in every game — from a high of 20 points in Week 1, to 18 points, then seven points and, lastly, three points.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick seemingly continues to regress each week, which is highly disappointing and frustrating. His confidence looks shot currently — he doesn’t seem to have any confidence in the pocket (where he looks like he will be sacked on nearly every down), and he can’t get the ball down the field reliably to receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin.

This lack of the deep ball is excellently highlighted by San Francisco Chronicle writer Eric Branch:

Pass plays of fewer than eight yards definitely puts pressure on the offense to make first downs. It’s not realistic to expect every deep ball to be completed, but the intermediate throws (10-15 yards) should be completed more reliably and help move the chains. The fact that Kaepernick is struggling to achieve these throws is infuriating. Can he turn this aspect of his performance around?

Per Greg Cosell of NFL Films (h/t CSNBayArea.com), he believes that Kaepernick is quickly heading towards being benched:

"It’s getting hard putting Kaepernick out there right now… It’s almost going beyond the fact that he’s not playing well, which he obviously isn’t. He’s just struggling to execute the most basic of things."

Kaepernick continues to be harassed by the opposing pass rush, where on Sunday he suffered six sacks to the Packers. Head coach Jim Tomsula is under the pump to try and find some answers to the offensive line issues and possibly implement changes to the line:

"It can’t be an emotional decision. You have to think your way through it. So we’re trying to make sure we’re thinking our way through it. And we are in the middle of that right now. I mean, is it an area of concern? 1-3 is an area of concern."

Better O-line play will help Kaepernick’s current lack of confidence and his decision-making. Per Eric Branch, an example of this is Kaepernick trying to throw a pass to running back Reggie Bush, who had slipped and was on the ground (and you can clearly see the frustration in Boldin):

This is a plain example of a QB who is lacking belief. Against the Packers, Kaepernick was 13-of-25 for 160 yards for a paltry 52 percent completion rate and an equally abysmal 20.1 QBR. Last season, Kaepernick ranked 17th in the NFL in QB rankings where he had a 60.5 percent completion rate.

I don’t think it’s at to the point where Kaepernick needs to see a shrink, but he has to work on his comfort level in the pocket and make better throws and reads to his receivers. He still has the support of “mentor” Kurt Warner (h/t Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area) who said Kaepernick is “learning under the gun”:

"I know everybody wants to get down on him but give the kid a chance to grow into the position. I have no idea what his future is going to be but it’s a young man that’s never really had to play the position like they’re asking him to play it now and he’s trying to learn and he’s learning under the gun."

Additionally, the 49ers offense needs to get the ball more to RB Carlos Hyde. Per Maiocco, Hyde touched the ball only a total of nine times versus the Packers (eight carries and one catch for a total of 22 yards).

Hyde is tied for fourth in the NFC in rushing yards (282) for a 4.5 average per rush. Hyde has been arguably the 49ers best offensive player so far this season, so there is no other option but to give him the ball more this week against the New York Giants.

Per Joe Fann of 49ers.com, the word for this week for the 49ers offense is “execute”. Against the Packers, the offense totalled only 196 yards and eight first downs. That’s not good enough to win games in today’s NFL.

Tomsula and offensive coordinator Geep Chryst need to develop game plans that have a proper balance between the run and the pass, and give Kaepernick quick throws at the beginning to get him into a rhythm and boost his confidence early. A successful running game also eases the pressure on Kaepernick.

Per Peter Panacy of Ninernoise.com, it might be time to shake up the right-side of the O-line and have a good, hard evaluation of introducing Trenton Brown and Brandon Thomas to the line. As he points out, Kaepernick has been sacked 14 times this season and is on pace for 56 for the year. This is pathetic, it really is.

The onus is on the coaching staff and the players on offense to turn this mediocrity around. The defense stepped up last week against the Packers, holding them to a season-low 17 points (10 points below their season average). However, they cannot win games by themselves.

The good news is that the focus is on this very fact:

Last season the 49ers beat the New York Giants 20-16 by way of five Eli Manning INTs. We cannot count on that happening again on Sunday. The offense needs to play better, and smarter. Kaepernick needs to play with confidence. Hyde needs to touch the ball more. The O-line needs to block better and give Kaepernick more time in the pocket and open up running lanes.

I’m a realist — I get it that all of this won’t happen overnight. However, I need to see gradual improvement in these aspects of the offense each week. I hate seeing Kaepernick regress each week. I hate seeing Hyde touching the ball a grand total of nine times. I hate seeing the ineptness of the 49ers O-line. I hate seeing our coaches being out-coached and making exasperating decisions:

There is no excuse to not see some incremental improvement on Sunday from the players and the coaches. Let’s get it together guys. This is a new opportunity. Let’s go get it.

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