SANTA CLARA – The 49ers have proved their preseason critics correct through a four-game losing streak, including a hard-to-watch performance Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium.
“The vibe is frustrating,” center Daniel Kilgore said following the 49ers’ 33-21 loss in front of a national television audience. “We’re 1-4, going down this path again. It sucks. That’s the vibe.
“We have a long weekend now, some days off to get your body healed and come back ready to go. We’re 1-4, but it’s still a long season. Sixteen games. So we have to come back to work ready to go.”
The 49ers finished 5-11 under one-and-done coach Jim Tomsula. And things do not look much different with virtually the same roster -- minus leading receiver Anquan Boldin -- from a year ago.
It was the kind of loss that left coach Chip Kelly openly searching for answers and promising that he and his coaching staff will look at everything, including a possible change at quarterback.
Starter Blaine Gabbert has been practicing better than Colin Kaepernick, Kelly said. The preparations during the week have been fine, he said, but the 49ers have been making critical errors during the games.
“I see a group that’s hurting because they’ve invested so much in this,” Kelly said. “So I think sometimes you worry in those situations when you see a bunch of guys that seem like they just don’t care. If they don’t care then they probably haven’t put a lot into it. I think this group, since we’ve been with them, has put a lot into this and it’s very, very important to them and they work extremely hard at it.
“So I see a group that’s hurting right now and as they should be. I don’t think anybody wants to be in this situation. I think we have a bunch of guys who want to be part of the solution not part of let’s blame somebody else for it.”
Gabbert has struggled. He threw two interceptions on Thursday, but he’s clearly not alone. Tight end Garrett Celek dropped a third-down pass on the game’s opening drive. Chris Davis fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half. The pass protection was the worst it has been all season. Carlos Hyde and Rashard Robinson committed critical penalties, and the defense continues to get pushed around.
“Dropped balls, we got penalties, we got sacks,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. “These are things we work on in practice that are very correctable. We had turnovers. You can’t lose the turnover battle 3-0, whether you’re at home or on the road. We put ourselves in a hole right there.”
The 49ers do not have many high-priced players, but most of those who are earning big paychecks are either injured – in the case of NaVorro Bowman – or simply not doing anything.
The 49ers have five players with salary cap figures of more than $7 million. Kaepernick is the highest-paid player on the team at $15.89 million. He has not played a meaningful snap all season.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith accounts for $7.6 million, and he has been an absolute non-factor. On Thursday, he had one pass thrown his way and it was incomplete. In five games, Smith has nine catches for 106 yards.
“It’s just another loss,” Smith. “I don’t know how many losses we have. We’ve got to do better, but we have time. No need to panic yet. I know we’re not playing the way we should be.”
Said running back Carlos Hyde, “We just have to stay at it. We have to stay focused and keep working and don’t give up. It is still a long season and we just have to keep fighting. Things can turn around. We can get one win and the next thing you know, you go on a streak. We just have to stay at it and keep pushing.”