49ers' passing game takes off, but still commits too many mistakes

49ers' passing game takes off, but still commits too many mistakes

SANTA CLARA – Colin Kaepernick threw for 398 yards on Sunday, his highest passing output since the season-opener of the 2013 season.

But mistakes across the board prevented the 49ers from putting up more points to attempt to keep up with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in a 41-23 loss at Levi’s Stadium.

“I think we got into more of a rhythm today,” said Kaepernick, who made his third start of the season after replacing Blaine Gabbert. “We still left a lot out there, particularly in the red zone. We went down there three times and came away with zero points.

“I get more and more comfortable every week. This is my first opportunity to get live reps, so being a few games in now, everything is more and more clear, more and more comfortable, and able to get in a rhythm with this offense.”

Kaepernick threw a costly interception, and running backs Mike Davis and DuJuan Harris lost fumbles deep in New Orleans territory that could have kept the game much closer for much longer.

Despite misfiring on seven consecutive pass attempts in the second half, Kaepernick completed 24 of 39 pass attempts for 398 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating was 102.3. Kaepernick had the second-largest passing day of his career, ranking behind only his 412-yard day against the Green Bay Packers to open his first full season as the starter.

“There were few throws here and there, I wish I would’ve had,” Kaepernick said. “The interception, in particular, I thought I could beat the guy with the throw. I saw him the whole way. Those are things that I look at, ‘What can I correct? What I can be better at to help this team win?’”

Kaepernick appeared to lock onto intended receiver Jeremy Kerley, giving Saints linebacker Craig Robertson enough time to jump the route for the interception. Robertson returned the interception 29 yards to set up the Saints’ second touchdown of the game.

“We just had to get back into rhythm,” Kaepernick said. “Everything’s not going to be perfect all the way through the game. There was something where we got a little off track at that point, but we got back on track and tried to get back in the flow so we could get back into the game.”

Wide receiver Quinton Patton had a career-high 106 yards receiving on six receptions. Kaepernick had short throws to running back DuJuan Harris and tight end Vance McDonald turn into 47- and 65-yard touchdowns, respectively.

“Today was a step in the right direction,” Kaepernick said. “We had a lot of opportunities, where a few different plays here and there, it’s a different ballgame. And those are things moving forward we have to correct. And those are the corrections we have to make that make a difference whether you win or lose football games.”

There is little question that Kaepernick will remain at quarterback as the 49ers look to end their seven-game losing streak and avoid a franchise-worst nine-game skid. The 49ers’ next two games are against the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots.

“You have to keep working and keep trying to be better every week because complaining about it, worrying about it, all those things, aren’t going to help you correct it,” Kaepernick said. “And, ultimately, that’s what we have to do, is correct things offensively, defensively and special teams. As a team, we have to correct our mistakes so we can start winning football games.”

John Lynch explains how Dee Ford can make 49ers defense dominant force

John Lynch explains how Dee Ford can make 49ers defense dominant force

PHOENIX — General manager John Lynch wants to make the 49ers' defense a dominant force in the NFL and he thinks the signing of Dee Ford can help him achieve that vision.

There are currently four first-round picks on the 49ers' defensive line; Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and now Ford.

Buckner had his best season in 2018, registering 12 sacks, 67 tackles, 44 of which were solo and 17 for a loss. He also recorded 20 quarterback hits. Lynch detailed how adding Ford will increase Buckner's productivity.  

“We felt we were just missing that edge piece,” Lynch said. “If we just had one guy there. It’s not like brain surgery. I think DeFo is a guy who has played at a high level but he’s had so many rushes that he hasn’t been able to finish because they aren’t getting it from the edge. 

“Now we have that. Dee is known, I think, for having the best first step in football coming off the edge. All of a sudden you have a tackle who doesn’t feel so good about hanging in here to help on DeForest because ‘If I do that Dee’s gone.’” 

Lynch doesn’t believe that the defensive line will be too crowded. The 49ers are very open to the idea of adding another first-round selection to the defensive line on April 25th. The defensive line room could potentially have Nick Bosa, Josh Allen or Quinnen Williams added to it on Day 1 of the NFL Draft. 

“I think there’s enough to go around,” Lynch said. “I think you want to be great at something. I think some people want to think that’s one guy. Well, for us, that’s always been collective.” 

There were games in 2018 when it seemed like a challenge to get every defensive lineman playing time.

Lynch explained the thought process behind the rotations. 

“We walked into a situation where there were some guys that had been drafted very high,” Lynch said. “I think two years in, we’re figuring out what everyone does best. What I would say is there is enough snaps to go around, but collectively we want to become a dominant force there, because we think that’s very important. It can really change the course of a game.”

[RELATED: 49ers considering all options with No. 2 overall pick]

Lynch has recently mentioned needing "closers" and "game changers" on the defense. He may not only have one of those in Ford, but he also may have just given the team their personality.

“You start to get excited about all those things,” Lynch said. “Those still have to come to fruition but I think we put the pieces in place. That’s the vision we have for that group.” 

NFL draft: 49ers considering all options, including trade of No. 2 pick

NFL draft: 49ers considering all options, including trade of No. 2 pick

PHOENIX – The 49ers have not necessarily narrowed down their list of potential targets for the No. 2 overall pick.

Although there is reason to believe former Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa tops the team’s list, the 49ers are still formulating a plan to consider all options, including potential trades, that could become available prior to next month’s draft.

The 49ers have six draft picks, including the No. 2 overall selection.

“We’re looking at a ton of people right there and kind of figuring out, ‘OK, if we’re here, this is what we’re doing,’ ” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “If not, we got to be prepared to understand who are the guys we like that we think can make us a better football team.”

The NFL owners meeting is a time when coaches and general managers can get together over a cold, icy or neat beverage to discuss different trade scenarios.

On the surface, the 49ers’ decision at No. 2 looks simple: Come up with two names, in order. If the Arizona Cardinals take the first player on the list at No. 1 overall, select the second guy on the list.

Boom! There you go.

But 49ers CEO Jed York said it’s imperative for Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and executive vice president of football operations Paraag Marathe to have a more detailed plan in place.

“We’re very, very happy with players who will be there at two,” York said. “And we need to be prepared, if somebody offers a trade that is too good to pass up, we need to know what we’ll do if we move back and what would we not take.

“You have to have that planned out beforehand because if you’re trying to figure all that stuff out, it’s OK in the second or third round, but when you’re the second pick in the draft, you can’t do that on the fly. It’s way, way too hard, so you need to get a sense of it.”

Bosa, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen are scheduled to visit the 49ers next month. Each is worthy of serious consideration for a high draft pick.

“You really want to come out of it with a player who is really going to be able to change the fortunes of your franchise,” Lynch said. “This year is a draft that’s very deep and there are also very good players at the top, so I think we’re in good position.”

The 49ers finished last season with a 4-12 record to be assigned the No. 2 overall pick. They need at least one difference-making player to make an immediate impact.

“I don’t expect to be drafting in the top two again, and if that’s the case, you have to add really, really talented players,” York said. “Or you have to get a ton of capital in order to move back, so you can make up for maybe not getting that No. 2 guy in the draft, but you’re getting a lot in return if you’re going to give up that opportunity.”

[RELATED: Lynch says McKinnon fits 49ers' plan for upcoming season]

The first wave of free agency has ended, and the attention shifts toward the three-day draft, which kicks off on April 25. The conversations at the owners meeting are an important part of the draft process.

“Things aren’t fully in focus, yet, in terms of what everybody is going to do,” York said. “But this week helps you at least get a better sense of that and just keep working toward your plan so you’re ready when the whistle blows come draft day.”