The San Francisco 49ers were hoping to build on a strong effort from Colin Kaepernick in their blowout loss to the Steelers last week, when he put together one of his best statistical performances of his career. Kaepernick threw for 335 yards and completed 33 of 46 attempts, compiling most of those numbers when the game was out of hand.
But Kaepernick followed that performance up with one of his worst in Sunday's 47-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, throwing for 67 yards while completing 9 of 19 throws. His 16.7 passer rating was a career-low.
His previous low was 20.1, when he threw three interceptions and no touchdowns in Week 2 of 2013 in Seattle.
"Today was 100 percent my fault," Kaepernick said afterwards. "There’s nothing anyone could have done in that locker room to change that game today the way I played."
Kaepernick threw four interceptions, including two on the 49ers' first two possessions that Arizona's defense returned for touchdowns. The Cardinals entered the game as the league's highest scoring team, and got off to a 14-0 start before their high-powered offense began making its imprint on the game.
"He’s a competitive guy. Colin’s a guy that has a tendency to put it all on his back," 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said.
And Kaepernick did put all of it on his back.
"Very hard for me to deal with. Very hard to see myself play like that and hurt this team the way I did," said Kaepernick. "I nullified all the efforts of every other player on that field today and that’s something that I have to fix. I have to be better for this team moving forward."
After those first two drives, the 49ers went away from the passing game, falling behind 28-0. Over their next three drives, they ran the ball 13 straight times, with Kaepernick scrambles sprinkled in.
"That was me just trying to get everybody calmed down here," Tomsula said. "Let’s grab ahold of this, see if we can get things calmed down, and get back at it."
The running game wasn't very effective either, despite strong running from Carlos Hyde, who finished with 51 yards on 15 carries before getting spelled for most of the second half. Kaepernick added 46 yards rushing on seven runs, including the team's only score from 12 yards out late in the second quarter.
On Kaepernick's first interception, he felt pressure and threw off his back foot, allowing cornerback Justin Bethel to step in front of tight end Vernon Davis and return it 21 yards for the game's first points.
On the second, Kaepernick was looking for receiver Anquan Boldin on a similar off-balanced throw to the right side, but Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu stepped in front of Boldin and returned it and went 33 yards for the defense's second touchdown in as many possessions.
"I just have to put it further outside and allow Vernon to make that play. The second one, we got a little bit of pressure…thought I could fit that on in to Anquan. It got undercut. Both of those are my fault, my mistakes that hurt this team," Kaepernick said.
Receiver Torrey Smith, who caught six passes for 120 yards and a 75-yard touchdown last week, didn't register a catch Sunday, and was targeted on Kaepernick's second-half interception, which came on the first play of the third quarter.
"Games like this do happen. Good thing it's early, because we have some time to recover from it," Smith said. "We just didn’t make enough plays. There’s no magic solution to it. We just got to take care of the ball and make plays and get it rolling."
Tomsula was asked if he ever considered replacing Kaepernick with backup Blaine Gabbert, who completed 82 percent of his passes in the preseason.
"No, sir," Tomsula said. "Colin’s our quarterback."
Tomsula indicated his preference was to let Kaepernick try and make some plays to build off of going forward, like he did against the Steelers last week, instead of benching him in favor of Gabbert.
"It’s great to know that your coach supports you," Kaepernick said.
Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.
E-mail Niners Digest: NinersDigest@gmail.com