The QB collapse: Where are these guys headed?

The 49ers' quarterback competition took a turn south Saturday as the team switched back and forth in the first half between Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick for six series of utter offensive futility. When it was over, the two QBs had a combined passer rating of 0.0, and it never got much better during a fiasco that leaves everybody wondering again exactly where the team is going at the position.


The Niners went nowhere during their 30-7 beatdown at the hands of the Houston Texans, a game that that saw their offense take a step back in general and both their quarterbacks take a step back in particular.

"I'm not going to single anybody out," coach Jim Harbaugh said, trying to conceal his disgust regarding his team's total collapse. "The players will hear it from us; they don't need to read about it as well."

But you can read about it here. This was a night to forget for the top two names on San Francisco's depth chart at the game's most important position.

In accordance with Harbaugh's plan to give Kaepernick some first-half work with and against first-teamers, Smith started the game and played the first two series. It almost hurt to watch as Smith struggled while getting hit relentlessly by a Houston defense that pushed around an offensive line that failed to protect its veteran QB.

Smith was hit hard for sacks on each of San Francisco's first two series, neither of which lasted more than five plays or gained more than 10 yards. Smith actually completed his first two pass attempts, but he would not complete another before his forgettable outing was over.

"I mean, the firsts couple of series, I got one first down and then sputtered," Smith said.

Kaepernick fared no better. He entered the game for San Francisco's third offensive series and converted a third-and-12 play when tight end Delanie Walker made an outstanding leaping catch to snag the rookie's high throw. But after moving the Niners to another first down, Kaepernick hung a deep pass over the middle, where Houston safety Troy Nolan swooped in for an interception that he returned 73 yards for a touchdown that gave the Texans a commanding 24-7 halftime lead.

"Actually, I saw the safety," Kaepernick said. "I thought that (wide receiver Braylon Edwards) was going to be able to cross his face before he got there. Just a bad judgment on my part."

After Kaepernick got right back on the field after his pick and went three-and-out, Harbaugh put Smith back in with 3:17 remaining before the half, and that resulted in another three-and-out. Smith got one more shot with 29 seconds remaining, but after throwing incomplete on first down, he was hit by two defenders while attempting to pass on the next play.

That resulted in Smith throwing it up for grabs deep down the field, where third-string safety Dominique Barber was happy to accept the gratuity for another Houston interception.

That was Smith's final play of the game, drawing loud boos from a sparse Candlestick Park crowd. He went to the sidelines to stay with a passer rating of 2.8.

Kaepernick's passer rating at halftime was the worst possible and one that you'll rarely ever see: 0.0. His passing numbers were so poor that, combined with Smith's numbers, it left the 49ers with a 0.0 passer rating as a team at halftime.

Now, that's bad.

"You have to get better," Kaepernick said, speaking of himself. "You've got to do a lot of things better offensively. I have to be better with my eyes, my feet, and some of my reads."

Kaepernick was marginally better in the second half, lifting his final game passer rating all the way up to 20.8 and giving the Smith/Kaepernick duo – which finished 8 of 22 for 69 yards passing with two interceptions and three sacks – a final 7.6 combined passer rating for the night.

Now, that's really bad.

So is this: Not only did the two QBs lead the 49ers to zero points, but they also ran just four plays in Houston territory and never once got San Francisco's offense beyond the Texans' 42-yard line.

With one game remaining in the exhibition season before the real games begin, both quarterbacks already have been hit hard twice and embarrassed twice in three preseason outings.

And in those three games, Smith has completed just 46 percent of his passes, has no touchdown passes and two interceptions for a passer rating of 33.0. Kaepernick has completed 49 percent of his passes, has no touchdown passes and three interceptions for a passer rating of 35.1.

"We'll move on from here and we'll learn from it," Kaepernick said. "That's one of the good things about the preseason, is you can learn from those things and they don't count for anything right now. This is practice for this season to make sure everything is right then."

But everything is far from right with San Francisco's struggling quarterbacks, and the season is coming up fast.


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