Luck outshines Kaepernick in Colts' upset of 49ers
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)
The San Francisco 49ers find themselves in unfamiliar territory under third-year coach Jim Harbaugh: on a losing streak.
It's pretty uncomfortable for all involved considering the rash of uncharacteristic penalties, a star player headed to rehab for an indefinite absence, and an offense that has produced 10 points the past two games. Not to mention a mistake-plagued defense, supposed to be among the best in the NFL, giving up big plays and showing serious flaws.
''Not winning this game, not being in position to make plays and make it competitive, that was disappointing to all of us,'' Harbaugh said. ''You can question just about everything right now. We didn't play well enough to win in enough areas, on enough downs.''
San Francisco has a quick turnaround before a key division matchup at St. Louis on Thursday night - but the 49ers won't have linebacker Aldon Smith, who is seeking treatment following his arrest Friday morning on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession.
Smith apologized after the game to ''everybody I let down,'' while 49ers CEO Jed York defended the organization's decision to let him play ahead of him leaving the team to get help.
''Our opinion is if you're sitting someone down and paying them to sit down when they're going to seek treatment in the future, we didn't feel like that was an appropriate punishment,'' York said.
Making matters worse, the 49ers lost All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis to a groin injury. His status is unclear.
Frank Gore finally found his rhythm as a bright spot for San Francisco, yet he had little help.
Gore ran for 82 yards after going for 60 total in his first two games, but Kaepernick had problems again as San Francisco (1-2) struggled to establish a passing game with tight end Vernon Davis sidelined by a hamstring injury. The defense committed numerous costly penalties for the third straight week.
Luck passed for 164 yards while facing his college coach for the first time. Trent Richardson scored a 1-yard touchdown on his first carry in his Colts debut after being acquired on Wednesday from the Browns. He was drafted two spots behind top-pick Luck last year.
This marked Kaepernick's first loss at Candlestick Park as a starter.
Luck stole the show. He completed his initial six passes and spoiled the home team's reunion day between coaches on both sides who know each other's tendencies dating to their days at Stanford.
Indianapolis sure appeared to be better prepared.
Luck sent third-year coach Harbaugh to consecutive losses for the first time. Luck was happier about the fact his two sisters who attend Stanford got to see him play.
''I wasn't caught up in, `Oh my gosh, I'm going up against Coach Harbaugh, (Greg) Roman and (Vic) Fangio,'' Luck said. ''I figured any time you play this sport, coaches and players come and go so much you that you always end up going against someone that you played for or played with or had a good relationship with.''
Before Sunday, Harbaugh was 7-0 following a defeat. Kaepernick had been 4-0 on his home field since becoming a starter last November. This time, his 49ers were 10 1/2-point favorites, but looked nothing like the better team in getting thoroughly outplayed.
He completed 2 of his 8 first-half passes and wound up just 13 for 27 for 150 yards with an interception and three sacks.
''There's no one thing, we just didn't execute this offense,'' Kaepernick said. ''I have to be able to throw to open receivers and give them a chance to make plays.''
The 49ers had six penalties for 48 yards and didn't look much better than they did in their five-turnover, 29-3 loss at division rival Seattle last week.
Kendall Hunter ran for a 13-yard score late in the first quarter, but San Francisco didn't score again.
Luck took advantage of a pair of penalties by San Francisco to open Indianapolis' seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive over the opening 3:40 for a 7-0 lead.
On the Colts' first play from scrimmage, safety Donte Whitner received a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty when he led with his helmet on a hit against Bradshaw after a 3-yard catch. Tarell Brown was flagged for pass interference on the next play.
Another penalty on Brown, for holding, gave the Colts a first down at the 23 midway through the second quarter and set up Vinatieri's 43-yard field goal. He kicked a 41-yarder in the third quarter.
Brown was penalized yet again for pass interference midway through the fourth.
Notes: 49ers special teams standout Bubba Ventrone left after the first quarter with a concussion. ... Davis' streak of 98 straight games played was snapped. ... The 49ers had their regular-season winning streak vs. AFC opponents end at five. ... San Francisco has lost three in a row to the Colts.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org