Here is a link to my column after the Niners got shut out by the Broncos. The full text runs below:

SANTA CLARA — You know this old cliché, right? It’s preseason and somebody writes such and such team already is in midseason form.

That would be inaccurate applied to the Santa Clara 49ers who played their first game ever at Levi’s Stadium — a 34-nil exhibition-game loss to the Denver Broncos. The Niners were not merely in midseason form. They were in late-season form.

I’m mostly talking about the early stages of the game when the first-string offenses and defenses were on the Santa Clara field. I’m not talking about later on when the guys trying to make the squad competed and most of the crowd took a powder.

Here’s what I mean by late-season form. On the 49ers’ first offensive series, they had to call timeout because they were unable to get the play in on time. They had third-and-4 at the Broncos’ 37-yard line, a pretty good position to rush that offense to the line of scrimmage and bust through for a first down. Nah. The Niners dawdled and hesitated and had to call a timeout. On third down.

You might say that’s pathetic. You might say the 49ers have had an entire preseason plus minicamps to work out basics like counting to 40. You might say the coaches have had ample time to use the headsets, to practice getting the play into the quarterback. To which I say don’t be so picky.

The Niners always have trouble getting their plays in on time. It’s who they are. They loused up at the very end of that Super Bowl they lost, and had to call timeout. It’s comforting to know they’re just where they need to be and, apparently, want to be.

There’s more. Coming out of that timeout, Kaepernick threw a pass to receiver Brandon Lloyd. The pass was deep and to the right side. Kaepernick threw the pass too far. Lloyd could not catch it.

Kaepernick is a specialist at missing passes to the right side in the deep corner of the end zone. See the pass to Michael Crabtree that Richard Sherman tipped to a teammate to end the 49ers’ chances in last season’s NFC championship game. Although Sunday was a mere exhibition game, it’s nice to know Kaepernick already has achieved late-season form.

I would like to report how the 49ers’ offense performed in the Red Zone, another area they find troublesome late in the season. I would like to report whether they had achieved late-season form there. Unfortunately, the Niners’ offense never actually got to the Red Zone with Kaepernick at the controls. In Kaepernick’s two series, the farthest the offense drove down the field was to Denver’s 37. So we can form no conclusions about the Red Zone.

We can say, by way of contrast, the Denver offense looked pretty good. Quarterback Peyton Manning – you’ve heard of him, right? – completed 12 of 14 passes and had a passer rating of 120.8. The guy definitely is in late-season form.

I don’t want to leave out the Niners’ defense. It’s also in late-season form. Even with the starters playing, the Niners got zero pass rush against the aged Manning. And the secondary couldn’t cover. We saw all this when the Seahawks eliminated the Niners last season.

The 49ers have not performed well in any aspect of football through two preseason games. If you disagree, name one aspect at which they’ve excelled. They never have performed this poorly in the preseason in the Jim Harbaugh Era. I mean they’ve been murdered in two games and averaged 1½ points per game. That’s a low number even for a baseball team. You could say this is merely preseason and the games don’t count – duh. But clearly this is not what Harbaugh intended.

I humbly submit there are reasons — darned good reasons — for the Niners’ slow start. It is a big deal for mere mortal millionaires to break in a new stadium. There’s been such a hullabaloo about parking and food prices and ordering food with a mobile app. It could get overwhelming.

Question: Would you like to see Kaepernick order a dog with kraut on a mobile app from the huddle?

Maybe the grass felt different to the players or the sunlight knifed in at a strange angle or the 49ers didn’t know where to enter the place. Maybe the locker room felt strange. Maybe the place was so new the Niners thought they were playing a road game.

And, hey, it must be confusing to a young man’s identity to call himself San Francisco when he’s playing in some other burg to the south called Santa Clara with the San Jose airport nearby and the shadow of airplanes flying over the stadium grass like pterodactyls. It must be confusing to play on a field in Silicon Valley with the SF logo painted at midfield.

After the game, Harbaugh seemed determined to improve. Not worried. Determined.

He usually praises his team no matter what. Not this time. He said the 49ers are “off.” He said they are not “precise.” He seemed confident they can turn the off to on, that they can become precise.

After Harbaugh spoke to the press, Kaepernick walked from the locker room to the interview room. The locker room is very Caesars Palace — in a good way. It has high ceilings and plenty of room and snazzy dark brown wooden cubicles and over each cubicle is each player’s name in lights.

So, Kaepernick made his way from the lighted Caesars locker room and walked onto the stage and stared at the media with that dead-eye stare which means . . . well, I have no idea what it means, but it’s scary. Referencing Harbaugh, one reporter asked if the team is “off.”

“Yeah, I think so,” Kaepernick elaborated.

Four words.

The man definitely was in late-season form.

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 atlowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.


Be Sociable, Share!



  1. htwaits

    I enjoyed the first part of your evaluation of the game today. I liked what you said about Harbaugh’s comments. Then you moved to your own version of mid season form with pointless snide comments about Kaepernick. Cheap. Really completely cheap.

    August 17th, 2014 7:08 pm

  2. sf9erfan

    My thoughts exactly.

    August 17th, 2014 7:31 pm

  3. David

    You want Kap to make you relevant and he just won’t do it. I don’t care what Kap, Harbaugh or any of them have to say after a win or loss so I don’t watch the after games interviews and I don’t read articles about what I just watched. I check blogs like yours just to see what has your undies in a bunch this week.

    I wish sports reporters had to be grilled by the athletes after every article they write. Maybe we could see some real insight LOL

    August 17th, 2014 7:38 pm

  4. Ben

    All of you guys who love to rag on Lowell for ragging on Kaep at al, please do me a favor:

    Tell me, with a straight face, that CK has what it takes. You’ve seen enough now. And if you can’t admit that, while a great athlete, he’s really not that good at QB, you’re blinded by your fandom plain and simple.

    August 17th, 2014 8:51 pm

  5. htwaits

    Ben, I’ve watched every quarterback that’s played for the 49ers since 1946. I have no idea when Kaepernick will stop improving and neither do either you or Lowell.

    You seem like a likely candidate to have been in the “Steve Young will never be a pocket quarterback or win the big one.”

    August 17th, 2014 9:47 pm

  6. htwaits

    … big one” club.

    August 17th, 2014 9:48 pm

  7. David


    I have no “fandom” for Kap. I don’t know if he will ever be an elite QB. My “ragging on Lowell” has to do with his opinion re: Kap and his interactions with the media. The “media” used to be something to respect, now, not very much.

    August 17th, 2014 9:50 pm

  8. Johnc

    Well it is shoot the messenger time in 49er land. I don’t blame the fans for being grumpy because the Niners sucked. I guess Lowell was supposed to sugar coat it.
    Niners go to Denver in October to play Broncos at Mile High. This way they can prove that today’s loss was an aberration. Manning might have other ideas.

    August 17th, 2014 11:15 pm

  9. Dr. Feelgood

    His Holy Majesty Peyton Manning has lead his teams to, count them, ONE Super Bowl. That puts him in a class with Brad Johnson, Mark Rypien and Trent Dilfer.
    Aaron Rodgers? One. Drew Brees? ONE.
    Kaepernick is ONE behind this, um, illustrious group.
    I like his chances.

    August 17th, 2014 11:51 pm

  10. Streetglide

    Don’t know that I can watch this season. Hubris is a difficult meal to swallow and watching some of the other preseason games I think the Niners will be served heaping bucketfuls this year. Maybe 8-8 if they are lucky. Harbaugh is gone, Tomsula steps up to the plate fora year or two and they descend into another decade of mediocrity.

    Oh yeah, that stadium is creepy looking. the proportions are off and that huge wall of luxury boxes looks like the bridge from some 23rd Century Starship. Not my team anymore…

    August 18th, 2014 4:36 am

  11. bks

    8-8 is nothing to be ashamed of. Ask the Raider. –bks

    August 18th, 2014 6:08 am

  12. Cindy

    To be fair, I thought (and the announcers thought) the Kaep pass to Lloyd was perfect. Lloyd appeared to lose it in the sun. Anyway, I do get the impression that Lowell really looks for every opportunity to put down Kaep.

    August 18th, 2014 6:31 am

  13. Rob

    Is Harbaugh discovering the meaning of “window?”

    August 18th, 2014 7:15 am

  14. Dennis

    “The man definitely was in late-season form.” And so are you my friend.

    I do have a question for you though. If you were him, would you talk to you knowing that the nothing good was going to come of it?

    August 18th, 2014 10:15 am

  15. CohnZohn

    Dennis, I don’t answer questions much anymore. But you’re a good guy and your question is sincere. I would find a way to be charming, to answer questions, to take the sting out of crummy questions. I think I could have done this at his age. My son, his age, sure can. I would find humor. I would be sincere. I would get help from my agents. Jim Harbaugh used to be just as bad as Kap. Not anymore. He has learned humor and charm and sincerity. I’ve come to like the guy. We have fun together. And get this, Dennis, he is so much more forthcoming now. Kap could learn from him.

    August 18th, 2014 10:28 am

  16. Dennis

    Thank you for your thoughts Lowell. I agree with your point. Probably sage advice. Humor takes confidence and my guess is that Kaepernick doesn’t have it with the local media yet. Maybe someday he will get it. He is probably better with the national media because he is one and done with them, where as he needs to face you guys everyday.

    I am looking forward to the season.

    August 18th, 2014 11:05 am

  17. Mark M

    Hysterical comments…either doom and gloom, or it means nothing at all. Mid August.

    I say the Niners need to catch up a bit here. They seem a week or so behind the other teams in their preparation. Perhaps it is the distractions, but they are a bit more off than I’d like to see at this point.

    Brandon Lloyd got his try out and didn’t impress much. He doesn’t fight well through the hands on defensive secondary play so prevalent today. He should have had that long pass down the side but allowed himself to get distracted by the pesky defender swiping at him. His hands are decent when wide open, but I sure would like to see more Ellington and Patton playing more with the first string next week. Stevie Johnson didn’t look good handling Kap’s fast ball in traffic either. Hmmmmmm….

    August 18th, 2014 11:11 am

  18. htwaits

    Kap learned all the bad stuff from Harbaugh so I expect that he will learn some of the good stuff too. There were several quotes from Kaepernick provided by other reporters without any reference to that “dead-eye stare”.

    August 18th, 2014 11:17 am

  19. Tom T Thompson III, PhD

    I love reading about sports but I honestly couldn’t care less whether or not the athletes say anything. If they do, sure, I’ll read it. But if they don’t, who cares? I certainly don’t feel insulted, as I’ve read before, here, that I should. I think that’s just an excuse for the writers to give athletes a hard time.

    August 18th, 2014 11:33 am

  20. Streetglide

    Some of you guys seem to have failed to notice that in recent years Lowell has developed a dry and pretty dead-on sense of humor. I wouldn’t take it too seriously. It’s only a game… Ebola, not that’s something else.

    August 18th, 2014 12:13 pm

  21. NeverWrong

    We need to get that bicep-smooching petunia out of there and bring in a real quarterback, like Bob Timberlake. Maybe fellow alum Harbaugh can talk him into unretiring.

    August 18th, 2014 1:12 pm

  22. Albert Park

    Generally, listening to athletes talk is a complete waste of time. Perhaps Kaepernick is doing us all a favor by keeping his words to a minimum.

    August 18th, 2014 4:09 pm

  23. B-Rad

    According to espn.go.com, for the 2013 regular season, there were 9 QBs with a higher QB rating than Kaep:

    Nick Foles – 119.2
    Peyton Manning – 115.1
    Josh McCown – 109.0
    Philip Rivers – 105.5
    Aaron Rodgers – 104.9
    Drew Brees – 104.7
    Russell Wilson – 101.2
    Tony Romo – 96.7
    Ben Roethlisberger – 92.0
    KAEPERNICK -91.6

    As a Niner fan, how many of these guys would you trade Kaepernick for
    straight up right now?

    As a longtime subscriber to ‘Gentlemen’s Quarterly’ you would probably
    trade Kaep for any of them, but that doesn’t count.

    August 18th, 2014 9:50 pm

  24. Donald

    Hey lowell I bet you’d love to cover Johnny football. Very engaging with the media. Says more than 4 word sentences. True gentleman there.

    August 19th, 2014 3:21 am

  25. Nancy R

    I am glad to laugh at your delightful ironical ribbing of the 9ers, full of pterodactyls and mobil apps. It was a needed respite after spending last night glued to CNN in Ferguson and thunderstruck by what I was seeing. I live in Missouri. I grew up in St. Louis. I live 100 miles away from Ferguson. I was just in St. Louis a week ago for my best friend’s birthday party. What was happening scared me. I thought I was looking at a totalitarian regime or a police state. Reporters were being manhandled and the crowds flooded with tear gas. Huge numbers of police in military gear with tanks and gas masks and shields confronted mostly peaceful protesters. It reminded me of apartheid South Africa. Is this America?

    August 19th, 2014 6:15 am

  26. Nancy R

    Right on Streetglide and Never Wrong. Like the petunia thing!

    August 19th, 2014 6:31 am

Submit Your Comments


Required, will not be published