Here is a link to my Sunday column recounting the 49ers’ 4th loss in a row. The full text runs below:
SANTA CLARA — The plucky 49ers almost played a good game before they lost to the San Diego Chargers 38-35.
The 49ers showed they almost have what it takes. They almost played a full four quarters, almost won, almost ended a three-game losing streak — now four — almost are a respectable team, almost belong in the playoffs, almost have a good offense, almost have a good defense, almost are well-coached, and almost earned our respect.
That’s a lot of good things — almost.
So, please let’s give credit to the 49ers. I want to be specific.
The 49ers came out with a beauty of an offensive game plan. That’s because the offensive coaches, especially offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who possibly awoke from a season-long coma, are almost competent. The offense used to be rancid but smelled like a rose on Saturday night, until it didn’t.
What the coaches did was almost rise to the occasion, whatever the occasion was. Most teams create a beauty of a game plan when they still are eligible for the playoffs. Until their three-quarter-long offensive explosion — “explosion” may be an overstatement — well, until their almost-explosion, this Niners offense had been worse than Jimmy Raye’s offense in points per game. As you remember, poor Jimmy got run out of town during the 2010 season.
It’s impressive the Niners went to Colin Kaepernick’s running game and also let Frank Gore run wild, and threw the ball to Vernon Davis, who had a 63-yard touchdown catch that was called back by penalty. Not his fault. Officially, Davis, the Niners’ fastest, most dynamic receiver, finished the game with zero catches — close to his usual. Officially, he didn’t even make it to the final stat sheet, but almost did. Which shows in Game 15, the Niners almost figured out how to use him.
Unfortunately, the Niners reverted to who they really are, reverted in the fourth quarter when they scored no points. The 49ers are specialists at not scoring in the fourth quarter. While they were not scoring, the pesky Chargers were busily scoring.
In the process of getting two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the Chargers tied the game and forced overtime. Of course, the Niners lost a fumble in overtime, gave the ball to San Diego and could not stop the Chargers from converting the winning field goal.
Which means the Niners almost won and almost have a winning record. They are 7-8, which is almost .500. And almost something you don’t laugh at.
Special praise must go to quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Until Saturday night, he had a dud of a season, and that made people wonder if he’s a dud of a QB.
But when the chips were not down because there were no chips to be down, when nothing was at stake, when some of his teammates already had contacted PG&E and the phone company, when some teammates had contacted Bekins and ordered the truck and the boxes, and started packing the boxes and crates with suits, shoes, pots and pans, paintings and video games, Kaepernick had a splendid game for three quarters. He even ran 90 yards for a touchdown. Man, can he run.
Naturally, he couldn’t lead his team to a score in the fourth quarter or overtime. He squandered a three-touchdown lead — not all his fault.
And he made one other mistake — honestly, if he hadn’t made this bonehead error, he almost would have played a good game. He had a third-and-5 from the Chargers’ 40-yard line with 3:43 left in the game and the Niners ahead by seven. He ran a sweep to the left. He lost a yard. Then he ran out of bounds. Watching that, 49ers fans wanted to smack themselves in the head.
The overpaid quarterback, who is almost a bust, did not understand the game situation yet again, did not understand clock management. He graciously stopped the clock for the Chargers, who promptly got the ball and drove down the field for the tying touchdown. So, we give credit to Colin for almost understanding football in this, his third year as a starter.
Asked about Kaepernick’s mistake, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said, “He was trying to pick up the first down. Obviously, that was the intent of the play.”
Call that an almost-answer. Harbaugh never said why Kaepernick ran out of bounds. At this point, who cares?
FYI, Harbaugh seemed totally relaxed after the game. Not almost relaxed. Totally relaxed. He looked like a man who is almost out of here and on to his next adventure.
What do we take away from the game? The 49ers are a bad football team. The 49ers don’t know how to win. The 49ers got totally humiliated. Nothing almost about it.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.