Only the San Francisco 49ers. Only the now 1-12 San Francisco 49ers could blow a 17-6 lead to Bryce Petty and the New York Jets. Only the San Francisco 49ers could look like a Super Bowl, ok .500, team every week in the first half, only to epically fold every week in the second half.
It all started out so well, as it tends to do. Cornerback Jimmie Ward had an interception that Colin Kaepernick and Carlos Hyde turned into a touchdown minutes into the first quarter. Kaepernick was moving the ball well. Hyde was running well (that continued but more on that in a minute). I should have known it was a bad sign when kicker Phil Dawson, the most reliable person on the team, missed two field goals.
And then came the dreaded second half. Kaepernick who had thrown for 116 yards in the first half, threw for seven in the second half. Seven.
“We have to go out and make plays,” said Kaepernick. “…[I]t just comes down to our execution and our ability to make plays when we have the opportunity.”
They did not make plays. Granted, they lost tight end Vance McDonald to a shoulder injury, and they lost wide receiver Torrey Smith to a concussion. It was a very scary moment when Smith’s head hit the turf. He was carted off the field but on his feet before getting on the cart.
Chip Kelly took the blame for the team’s implosion, admitting he got too conservative with play calling in the second half.
“Yeah, that’s on me as the play caller but I just really wasn’t confident,” said Kelly. “You lost Vance. You lost Torrey. You’ve got two new guys in there on the offensive line. I was making sure we were good with protection. They were bringing a lot of zero blitzes. You’ve got to get the ball off quick. Make sure that we’ve got the guys picked up, but yeah that’s on me.”
However, wide receiver Jeremy Kerley made a good point, saying, “Players play football.”
Hyde ended up rushing for a career-high 193 yards. 193 yards and it wasn’t enough. But wow. What a day for Hyde, who did it without offensive lineman Joe Staley and later with Staley and Daniel Kilgore, who left the game with a leg injury.
Understandably, Hyde could not get that excited.
“It doesn’t really matter,” said Hyde. “I’d take the win over the stats any day. I really wanted to win that one. I wanted to win all of them. The stats don’t really matter. I’m just trying to win.”
The defense was on the field for 42 minutes, and by the fourth quarter, it showed. The unit was absolutely exhausted. Hence the Jets 11 point fourth quarter comeback to tie the game and overtime touchdown to win it. Really, the 49ers should only play 30-minute games.
“I just feel like it starts in practice,” said cornerback Jimmie Ward. “We just have to finish in practice because Chip always tells us that we have to finish. In practice he emphasizes to finish and so that is on the players. Somehow we have to come together and get that done.”
The pass rush was definitely improved, and rookie DeForest Buckner was a big part of that. He continues to show promise as a future NFL star with 11 combined tackles and two sacks, bringing his season total to five sacks, which is tied for most on the team. That’s a good thing.
But most everything else is a bad thing with this team. With three games left, that number two draft pick is looking like the best thing this group’s got going. Three games. We can get through this. Off to Atlanta.