OAKLAND, Calif. -- It was dangerously called a Super Bowl or bust season by, and for, the San Francisco 49ers this summer. And with three games remaining, it is looking conspicuously like the latter.
Such things happen when you go on the road, actually, a mere 32.4 miles up Interstate 880, and drop a 23-14 decision to a Bay Area rival in the Oakland Raiders that entered the game with just one victory and was coming off a 52-0 pasting at the St. Louis Rams.
“It’s shocking,” 49ers running back Frank Gore said. “I just know the type of guys we’ve got in this locker room. It’s been a tough year, up and down.
“We knew it was a must-win. To come in here and still not get the job done ... this is the lowest point.”
Mathematically, the Niners are still alive for the postseason at 7-6, three games behind the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West with three games to go, and two games out of the wild-card race, which features the likes of the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.
Realistically, though, it can and quite possibly will come to a crashing halt in Seattle next week, what with the way the visiting Seahawks dismantled the 49ers on Thanksgiving. The Niners have lost five of their past six games in Seattle, many in blowout fashion.
This is the third two-game losing streak for the 49ers this season, after having two pairs of such losing streaks in coach Jim Harbaugh’s first three years with the team. Both of those came in 2013.
The Niners have never lost three straight under Harbaugh.
Plus, quarterback Colin Kaepernick has regressed.
Two interceptions, on his first and last passes of the game, surrounded five sacks, three delay of game penalties and one pushed cameraman in the tunnel at halftime. A 54.4 passer rating was the result for Kaepernick, while Raiders rookie QB Derek Carr shined with a 140.2 rating.
“I’m giving everything I have every time I step on the field,” Kaepernick said.
This season, though, it has not been good enough. Not when he looks as though he’s lost his confidence, and not when his passes are so off target.
It is obvious the 49ers have tried to convert him into more of a pocket passer than the electrifying dual threat he was last year and before, and it’s just as evident he does not look comfortable.
At least, not as comfortable as he did when he broke off a pair of long runs -- 17 yards and 16 yards -- late in the second quarter.
Is this, crippling injuries aside, where the Niners’ season went off track? Because while the six-year, $126 million contract extension Kaepernick signed this offseason is team friendly and has been described as being year to year, it may have hamstrung the team.
The thinking goes like this: because the front office has made such an investment in Kaepernick, the coaching staff has been nudged to not put him in harm’s way with designed running plays.
And you see the result: a halting, dazed and somewhat exasperated Kaepernick, and the lack of individual success has bled over to the rest of the offense. At least, that’s one theory.
“I look at it as a team effort,” Harbaugh said when asked his thoughts on Kaepernick’s play. “And we didn’t get it done.”
The 49ers have not been getting it done for a while now.
Just ask Gore.
“I just don’t feel like we us,” he said. “We can’t get in a rhythm.”