As Colin Kaepernick and the offense go, so go the 49ers. And on Sunday, just about nothing went well.
Offense sputters: The 49ers lost this game on offense. The defense was terrific, but the offensive was lackluster, especially in the second half. All the 49ers had to show for the game was three first-half field goals. The 49ers had just 45 total yards in the second half, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for 91 yards and was sacked six times, a season high. The 49ers had just 4 yards on 14 plays in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the 49ers’ success depends on their offensive production. In their six wins, the 49ers have scored at least 31 points. However, in their three defeats, the 49ers have scored in single digits.
Third-down defense sags: The 49ers' defense was very good; the Panthers scored on a broken play and a long field goal. But the 49ers were not perfect on defense. A major reason the Panthers won this game was the third-down success of quarterback Cam Newton. He was 6-for-8 on third-down passes in the second half. This is an area the 49ers immediately have to address with Drew Brees and New Orleans looming.
Smith being eased back in: 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith played about 12 snaps Sunday. Most of his action was as an inside defensive lineman on third down. It was Smith’s first action since Week 3. The 49ers are easing Smith back into game action after he spent five weeks at an alcohol treatment center. He said after the game that he understands the decision, but wants to play more. He said he hopes to be a full a participant next week in New Orleans. I’d think as long as everything remains positive for Smith, he will get more playing time next week.
Returning switch: Not surprisingly, the 49ers made a switch at returner. Kyle Williams, who struggled badly against Jacksonville in Week 8 before the team'’s bye week, has been replaced on punts and kickoffs. LaMichael James was the punt returner Sunday and Anthony Dixon returned kicks. I’d expect the switch to continue.