49ers trying to ‘regroup, refit and reorganize’

Jim Harbaugh kept his sentences short and information at a

minimum Monday, repeating a phrase he will rely on following the

worst loss of his NFL coaching career: regroup, refit and

reorganize.

That’s all the San Francisco 49ers can do at this point.

Beat up and down, San Francisco’s 42-13 blowout loss at Seattle

cost the 49ers (10-4-1) more than just a game. They have another

pair of key starters questionable with injuries, let control of a

first-round playoff bye slip away, and head into Sunday’s

regular-season finale at home against Arizona (5-10) with a

half-game lead in the NFC West.

”No excuses or justifications,” an overwhelmingly grim,

tight-lipped and humbled Harbaugh said back at 49ers headquarters.

”Our team needs to bounce back.”

The only way the 49ers can secure a No. 2 playoff seed – and the

first-round bye that comes with it – is a win against the Cardinals

coupled with a Green Bay loss at Minnesota. If they lose and

Seattle (10-5) wins at home against St. Louis, the Seahawks will

steal the division and send San Francisco on the road for the first

round.

Complicating matters even more, the 49ers enter the finale with

their depth depleted.

Wide receiver Mario Manningham, bothered by a shoulder injury

previously, limped out of the locker room Monday on crutches. He

was scheduled to have an MRI exam on his left knee after he was

tackled low by Leroy Hill and fumbled in the third quarter.

Tight end Vernon Davis must clear the league’s NFL concussion

protocol after getting knocked off his feet along the sideline by

safety Kam Chancellor on a huge hit that looked legal but drew a

penalty for thumping a defenseless receiver.

And defensive lineman Justin Smith’s streak of 185 straight

starts ended when he sat out with an elbow injury. Harbaugh

remained mum on Smith’s status, except for saying ”he has not

undergone a procedure.” Asked if Smith will need surgery at some

point, Harbaugh would only say ”we’ll see.”

San Francisco already had lost backup running back Kendall

Hunter (lower leg), wide receiver and punt returner Kyle Williams

(left knee) and defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs (right knee) to

season-ending injuries. Defensive lineman Will Tukuafu added to

Harbaugh’s headaches when he hurt his back against the Seahawks and

did not return, and backup linebacker Clark Haggans missed the game

with a shoulder injury.

”I feel our team’s leadership, I feel the intellect of the

staff, I think the talent of the players, the work ethic of the

players will pave the way,” Harbaugh said.

There are still plenty of problems for the 49ers who are

healthy.

Seattle’s loud fans flustered quarterback Colin Kaepernick and

the coaching staff from the start, forcing the 49ers to call two

timeouts and get two delay-of-game penalties in the first half

alone. Kaepernick completed 19 of 36 passes for 244 yards and a

touchdown with one interception in the end zone.

What do the 49ers have to do offensively to avoid penalties and

clock-management problems?

”Fix it,” Harbaugh said.

”That’s the only option we have,” left tackle Joe Staley said.

”You learn from the film, you watch it and make the corrections.

Our whole team didn’t play well.”

Frank Gore was held to 28 yards on six carries after rushing for

a season-high 131 in San Francisco’s 13-6 win against Seattle in

Week 7. The loss of Justin Smith seemed to affect the entire

defense, and Russell Wilson’s slipperiness in the pocket didn’t

help. Aldon Smith is still stuck on 19 1/2 sacks after getting

locked up by Seattle’s Russell Okung.

Red Bryant also blocked David Akers’ 21-yard field-goal attempt,

Richard Sherman scooped up the ball and sprinted untouched for a

21-0 lead that put the game out of reach.

”Rather than go position by position, or any one particular

phase, I don’t think anybody looks back on this and feels like it

was good enough,” said Harbaugh, handed a miserable loss on his

49th birthday by longtime rival and Seattle coach Pete Carroll.

If there’s a bright side to San Francisco’s setback, Harbaugh is

7-0 after a loss in his two-year tenure and competition will not be

nearly as difficult as the last two weeks at Seattle and New

England.

The 49ers routed the Cardinals 24-3 in the desert on a Monday

night in late October, a game Alex Smith completed 18 of 19 passes

for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Smith has since been replaced

by Kaepernick, a high-risk, high-reward, dual-threat quarterback

who is 4-2 as the starter.

While the 49ers also have looked dominant at times this season,

they have yet to put together a winning streak. Five times this

season San Francisco has won two consecutive games, and five times

they have failed to win the third game, including a 24-24 tie

against St. Louis in Week 10.

To win the Super Bowl – or even just get there – the 49ers will

have to change that.

”It was a punch in the face,” cornerback Carlos Rogers said of

the loss in Seattle. ”But the thing about it is we still have a

chance to win the division and we’re in the playoffs. It’s a new

season once the playoffs start.”

NOTES: The 49ers released LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis from the

practice squad. He had been signed on Dec. 4…. Players are off

Tuesday for Christmas.

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