Marcio Jose Sanchez/ap file photoThe future for Jim Harbaugh seems murky as of late.

49ers are getting away from successful formula

What did the 49ers do during their off week? Talk about their postseason plans? If they continue playing as they did Sunday, that postseason will consist of watching other teams in the playoffs.

That game was the worst I've seen by a Jim Harbaugh-coached team, and I'm already hearing from readers who wonder if Harbaugh will walk away at the end of the season because he hasn't signed a contract extension. I doubt that because he's not one to walk away from a challenge, but there's much left to do with this team.

Yes, the Niners have injury problems and, yes, they're missing some key parts, notably their best pass rusher, Aldon Smith and linebacker NaVorro Bowman. A report that Smith's nine-game suspension by the NFL would be reduced was apparently bogus, another example of a media-type citing as a source the person who looked back at him from his bathroom mirror.

But this was the sad-sack St. Louis Rams, who have their own injury problems. They had only two wins coming in, one of them when they used trick plays to upset the Seattle Seahawks. Their quarterback looks like a guy who couldn't start for either Cal or Stanford.

Yet they managed to beat the 49ers, partly because their coaching staff went brain-dead and partly because good players acted as if they were just getting acquainted with the game.

The Rams put constant pressure on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, sacking him eight times. The Rams' defensive coordinator is Gregg Williams. Hello! His trademark is relentless blitzing. Yet, the Niners never seemed to adjust to this, not the offensive line nor the offensive play-caller, Greg Roman.

One way to beat a blitzing team is to run through the holes that blitzing leaves in the defense, but the 49ers seem to have forgotten how to run the ball. They called only 16 running plays, all but two for Frank Gore. Kaepernick scrambled another five times but for only 14 yards. No spectacular runs this time.

And with a win within reach, Kaepernick fumbled away the ball trying to get into the end zone from the one. He claimed he got into the end zone before he fumbled but he was bobbling the ball right after it was snapped. That's the whining of a loser.

The 49ers seem to have gotten away from what won for them before, a bruising ground game that controlled the clock and the game. This year, they played some games where they had five-receiver formations, showcasing the fact that they have more good receivers than before. That's the type of offense that lights up the scoreboard against inferior defenses, but falls short against good ones.

These are desperate times for the 49ers. They aren't going to catch NFC West-leading Arizona, which survived a stretch when it was down to a third-string quarterback and is now running free behind Carson Palmer.

The defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are vulnerable with many problems of their own, only a game ahead of the 49ers. It's possible the Niners could still regroup and supplant the Seahawks — but only if they go back to what got them to this level.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at glenndickey36@gmail.com.

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