SANTA CLARA – The script repeated itself once again for the 49ers on Sunday.
The game remained close for a while. The offense stalled. The defense broke.
The New England Patriots pulled away in the fourth quarter with 17 unanswered points and cruised to a 30-17 victory over the 49ers in front of a pro-Patriots crowd at Levi’s Stadium on a rainy day.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick had his moments, but the 49ers failed to keep pace in the third and fourth quarters. Kaepernick threw nine consecutive incomplete passes at one stage of the second half.
“We have to do a better job of executing,” Kaepernick said. “We got in a little bit of a rut. We got out of rhythm and weren’t stringing plays together like we were earlier in the game.”
Colin Kaepernick completed eight of nine attempts in the first half for 116 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. His passer rating was 155.8.
Kaepernick finished with 16 completions in 30 attempts for 206 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and a passer rating of 97.4.
“When the skies opened up a little bit, we were behind and we had to throw it every down,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. “We’re not good enough to throw it every down.”
The 49ers’ already-thin group of wide receivers took the field Sunday without strter Torrey Smith, who missed the first game of his six-year NFL career due to a shoulder injury. So when the 49ers had to throw the football a lot, it was not exactly playing to the team’s strength.
“That’s just not what we’re built for,” Kelly said. “Torrey wasn’t in today. We don’t have a go-to wide receiver that’s going to elicit double coverage and then all of a sudden you’re going to get single matchups across the ball. We can line up in empty sets all day long and throw the ball all over the lot. That’s just not where we’re built right now.”
The 49ers had just four receptions from their wide receivers. Starters Jeremy Kerley and Aaron Burbridge were held without any catches. The only production the 49ers received from their wideouts came from Chris Harper (two catches for 35 yards) and Quinton Patton (two catches for 17 yards).
Kaepernick agreed with his coach that the 49ers’ best chance at offensive success is when they are able to feature a mix of running and passing.
“Most football teams you have to have balance,” Kaepernick said. “There’s very few teams that can throw the ball on every down and be successful. This offense is built on being balanced.”
The Patriots out-schemed the 49ers early in the game with three third-down sacks against Kaepernick in the first half. New England often brought extra pass-rushers than the 49ers had in protection.
“If you go back and look at the film, it really wasn’t on the O-line,” 49ers right tackle Trent Brown said. “They were bringing extra guys. So we do the best we can with what we got called.”
The 49ers failed to take advantage of the Patriots’ aggressiveness on defense.
“There’s a lot of one-on-one matchups in those situations,” Kaepernick said. “Those are things we have to take advantage of and win those matchups.”
The 49ers’ ninth-consecutive loss ties a franchise record from 1978. The 49ers hit the road for games the next two weeks against Miami and Chicago. The Dolphins enter next week's game on a five-game winning streak.
“I don’t think we’re going to take our ball and go home,” said Kelly, who added he has not seen any drop-off in the team’s effort or work ethic.
“They practice well. They’re engaged. They want to win. They’re not excited about where we are right now in terms of what we’ve done loss-wise. But we got to go back to work. That’s the only thing we can do in this situation.”