Harbaugh searching for answers after 49ers struggling start

Jay Asser 11:55 23/09/2014
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All on me: Jim Harbaugh's team have endured a poor start to the season.

The San Francisco 49ers are reeling through three games, having no one to blame but themselves for their early-season struggles.

By blowing second-half leads and committing debilitating penalties, the 49ers look far from the team that’s reached three straight NFC Championship games with a distinct identity.

San Francisco’s shortcomings were highlighted in the 23-14 loss to NFC West foes Arizona Cardinals in Week 3, as the 49ers were outscored 17-0 in the second half to fall to 1-2.

It’s been a tale of two halves all season for San Francisco, who have thrashed opponents 59-16 in the first two quarters, only to be outscored 52-3 after the intermission – a significant drop-off from coach Jim Harbaugh’s first three years.

San Francisco ranked 17th, fourth and sixth in average points per game during the second half the past three seasons, while the 

defence finished no lower than eighth for least points conceded with an average of 9.3 per year.

Harbaugh can’t decipher what’s leading to the second-half problems this year and had no answer when asked for an explanation following the loss to Arizona.

“No, I don’t [understand],” Harbaugh said. “We’ve just got to play better. We’re not playing good enough right now.”

Defensively, it’s hard to ignore the number of penalties the 49ers are racking up to extend opposing offence’s drives.

San Francisco committed nine penalties for 107 yards against the Cardinals after accumulating 16 for 118 yards in their loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 2.

The penalties haven’t been mild either. Much of the penalty yardage has been off personal fouls, such as wide receiver Anquan Boldin’s head-butt of Arizona’s Tony Jefferson to push the offence out of the red zone in the third quarter.

Boldin, however, is frustrated by how tightly the 49ers games have been called, calling out the referees to officiate more evenly. 

“It’s been obvious the last two weeks,” Boldin said. “The amount of calls that have gone against us and the amount of calls that we’ve gotten hasn’t been close. Every week it’s the same thing. We send the tape in, the NFL just reports back, ‘We made a mistake.’ At the same time, the c*** is costing us games. At some point, they need to be held accountable.”

Penalties aside, the San Francisco pass defence has looked inconsistent and things get no easier with the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles next on the schedule.

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