St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins (21) celebrates after returning a fumble for a two yard touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. St. Louis defeated San Francisco 16-13 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
(KSDK Sports) -- Some of the concerns when Harbaugh benched Alex Smith for Kaepernick in 2012 are finally starting to surface. While the move was undeniably a success because San Francisco reached Super Bowl XLVII with the dynamic Kaepernick at the helm, the third-year player has struggled the past two weeks with his top weapons sidelined.
The setback in Seattle during Week 2 could be written off a bit because the Seahawks are so dominant at home and have the NFL's best secondary. Losing to the Colts at Candlestick set off a few alarms, however.
Indianapolis was a playoff team in 2012 thanks in large part to Luck but the defense is still a work in progress so Kaepernick's inability to get anything going even without his field-stretchers has to be a concern and more than a few have speculated Smith, the current starter in Kansas City, who is 22-5-1 in his last 28 NFL starts, would have game-managed San Francisco to a win in that one.
"Football's not easy. There are struggles," Harbaugh said. "That's one of the things you enjoy about the game, that there are struggles. We've got some adversity, there's no question about it. And we'll also have the rare opportunity of staring adversity in the face and whipping it. That's our goal."
Star receiver Michael Crabtree isn't coming back anytime soon and speedy tight end Vernon Davis continues to be slowed by a hamstring injury, although he was back at practice on Monday in a limited fashion indicating there is at least a chance he will be ready by Thursday. His presence will be key because opposing defenders are starting to realize they can sit on veteran Anquan Boldin's routes and neither Kyle Williams or rookie Quinton Patton are consistent enough to pop the top on the other side.
"Well, you never lay it on one spot," Harbaugh said when discussing the receivers. "If we're talking offensively, precision needs to be better and that falls under everybody's purview. So, we'll try one more thing. As always, there's another thing to try and you go back to work and see if you can't improve and fix."
St. Louis has one of the game's best playmakers at cornerback in Janoris Jenkins while Cortland Finnegan is the kind of pesky veteran who can get under the opponent's skin.
"They're a good football team," Fisher said of the Niners. "What they did last year is indicative of that. You don't get to where they got last year without being able to overcome adversity. They were a few plays away from winning the world championship last year. We've got our hands full. Regardless of who's coming or who's not, they're going to be ready to play."
Defensively for San Francisco Smith is gone for now and fellow All-Pro Patrick Willis is also likely to be sidelined during the short week with a groin issue.
Smith, of course, has been one of the NFL's premier pass rushers since being taken by San Francisco with the seventh overall pick of the 2011 draft. He notched 14 sacks during his rookie season, then ranked second in the league with 19 1/2 sacks last year while helping the 49ers to an appearance in the Super Bowl. Willis is a six-time All-Pro and the leader of the San Francisco defensive unit.
Bradford has to be able to take advantage of the situation but needs some kind of running game as a complement. Starter Daryl Richardson injured his foot in the first quarter at Dallas after rushing for just 35 yards on 10 carries in Week 2. Backup Isiah Pead has shown some wiggle as a receiver but not much as a runner at his point.
"Obviously, it's very important," Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said when asked about sparking the run game . "I think you look at both games last year against (the 49ers), we ran the ball pretty well. It's never an easy task against them. They play with great fundamentals and technique, but we need to get the running game going."