Jim Harbaugh will not point a finger at one player in particular, or one coach. This beating is being felt by all.
Harbaugh vowed to gather input from everybody involved in Sunday's lackluster 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers to better understand exactly why a 49ers offense so prolific in recent weeks had so many problems.
“The way we look at it is as a unit. Offensively, we didn't play well enough to win the game,” Harbaugh said Monday. “Across the board, we take accountability for that and have fingerprints on it. I'm not going to go through and dissect position by position, raking anybody over the coals. I don't think that's the best thing for us.”
Harbaugh declined to provide specifics about underperforming players, or why the Panthers were able to penetrate San Francisco's typically stout offensive line and sack Colin Kaepernick a career-high six times — or why Kaepernick seemed so uncomfortable in an 11-for-22 day for 91 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
“We had a good week of practice,” Kaepernick said. “I think everybody was ready. We just didn't execute when we got on the field.”
Now, there's another tall task ahead for the Niners (6-3): A date with the surging Saints (7-2), who had an NFL-record with 40 first downs and a franchise-best 625 total yards in a 49-17 victory over the Cowboys. San Francisco visits the Big Easy for the first time since a 34-31 Super Bowl loss to Baltimore in the Superdome.
“We've got a tough game coming up, and we're not going to wallow in it,” Harbaugh said. “We're going to move on to New Orleans.”
Injured tight ends Vernon Davis and Garrett Celek both were undergoing further testing Monday, Davis for a concussion that kept him out of the second half and Celek for an injured hamstring sustained in the first quarter. Harbaugh said the team will explore its options but wasn't ready to guess whether that might mean bringing someone in from outside the organization.
In addition, rookie first-round draft pick safety Eric Reid suffered his second concussion of the season. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald injured an ankle.
An already-stagnant 49ers passing attack missed Davis' ability to stretch the field and outleap defenders.
“I think that definitely contributed … one of the things that contributed to the rhythm of the offense. No, I'm not going to use any excuses or is anybody going to alibi,” Harbaugh said. “But we did lose two tight ends in the game, Celek before Vernon, and that contributed.”
Still, the glaring thing from Sunday's game was 151 total yards for the Niners, who had put up 31 or more points during each victory in a five-game winning streak snapped by the Panthers. Running back Frank Gore accounted for 82 of those yards, while wideout Mario Manningham had three catches in his season debut nearly 11 months after major knee surgery.
“We just didn't execute,” wide receiver Anquan Boldin said, “point blank.”
As far as ESPN analyst and former 49ers quarterback Trent Dilfer questioning Kaepernick's read progression when his first option is taken away, Harbaugh wouldn't go there. It's been a year since Harbaugh promoted Kaepernick over departed 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick Alex Smith.
“I understand what you're doing and what you're trying to do, glomming on to somebody's opinion that, you know, thinks whatever they think,” Harbaugh said. “The main thing is that we'll look at it and talk about it with our players and see the areas that we can improve. Just dissecting it as a unit, we had too many negative plays in the game, loss-of-yardage plays, penalties, sacks, turnovers. We didn't do a good enough job.”
The 49ers managed only 46 net yards passing. Following Manningham's return soon could be that of Michael Crabtree, who set career highs last season with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns.
He resumed practice last week for the first time since tearing his right Achilles tendon May 21 and having surgery. Harbaugh said he was unsure whether Crabtree would be ready to return as soon as Sunday in New Orleans.
Even with the 49ers seemingly hurting their cause in the NFC West race, Harbaugh insists the goal of winning a third consecutive division crown has not changed. Earlier this year, San Francisco lost its first back-to-back games in Harbaugh's three-year tenure as coach — in Week 2 at Seattle and the next Sunday against the Colts at home.
“I think their mindset will be what it's always been, it's a blue-collar mindset,” Harbaugh said. “That involves fixing things, building things, sutures in our hands and the weapons are in our hands, our fate is in our hands.”