49ers only have themselves to blame for erratic play

What happened to the 49ers? Who are these imposters that show up only for the first half of a game and are totally undisciplined? I've always thought the Niners would not reach the level of the previous two years, but unless there are drastic changes soon, they won't even make the playoffs.

The worst aspect is probably the lack of discipline and the large number of penalties, unlike any Jim Harbaugh team at Stanford or with the 49ers. Penalty flags showered down on the team in the fourth quarter in Arizona on Sunday before the Cardinals put it away with a late field goal. The worst came when Anquan Boldin, after making another great catch, got up and head-butted Arizona safety Tony Jefferson, right in front of the official.

And then Boldin blamed the officiating. You know who usually does that? Losers.

As usual, quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a great first half and then disappeared in the second half. It's clear by now what's happening: The opposing defensive coordinator changes his scheme and Kaepernick can't adjust. He just keeps doing what he was doing, even though he's no longer succeeding.

And though he had multiple receivers who made catches in the first half, he still hasn't changed his pattern of locking in on one receiver. I had to laugh when an announcer talked about Kaepernick “going through his progressions.” The next time he does that will be the first.

That pattern almost cost him a pick-6 interception in the first half when the Arizona cornerback read his eyes and jumped a route, only to drop the pass with a clear field ahead of him.

The 49ers' defense is obviously hurting because Aldon Smith has been suspended for the first nine games of the season and linebacker NaVorro Bowman is still recovering from a serious injury and probably won't be physically ready until midseason. And, of course, there have been serious changes in the defensive backfield because of losses to free agency.

But the Niners were supposed to have an improved offense as they added several receivers to give Kaepernick more options and drafted Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde. That worked well in the first half Sunday as Kaepernick completed passes to six players, including Hyde, as the Niners operated out of a spread offense, which seemed to surprise Arizona.

But in the second half, nada.

Meanwhile in Seattle, quarterback Russell Wilson keeps improving and finding more ways to win games. It took an overtime Sunday to subdue the Denver Broncos, but Wilson never gave the Broncos a chance to win as he took the Seahawks 80 yards down the field for the winning touchdown at the start of overtime.

Quite a contrast to Kaepernick's virtual disappearance in the second half of the two 49ers losses.

Harbaugh is as surprised as anybody about the 49ers' strange and undisciplined play. In his coaching career, starting in college at San Diego, he has never had a team like this. He had a very short and subdued postgame talk to the media Sunday, and he clearly has no answers.

His players have to make a change themselves and quickly, before the season is irretrievably lost.

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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