Coach Jim Tomsula said the 49ers need to get deep-play threat Torrey Smith more involved in their offense. But he admitted that’s merely one item in a “checklist” of corrections.
Through four games, the 49ers (1-3) are averaging 12.0 points, last in the NFL. What’s more, they’ve scored fewer points with every outing, from 20 points in their Week 1 victory to a league-low three points in Sunday’s 17-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
They also are last in pass plays of 20 yards or more, something in which Smith has specialized and why the 49ers acquired him as a free agent. He caught a 75-yard touchdown pass in Week 2 and had an impressive, over-the-shoulder grab for 47 yards Sunday.
Both catches, however, came in the second half of games the 49ers had little chance of winning. He was held to one catch in Week 1 and no catches in Week 3. He also was one of the 49ers who was visibly frustrated with the team’s passing offense Sunday.
After a first-quarter pass from Colin Kaepernick to Smith sailed out of bounds on third down, the wide receiver trudged to the bench and had to be consoled by Tomsula.
“My body language was horrible at times,” Smith said Monday. “I should never let my frustrations show, especially to you all. That’s not a good thing at all, and I’ll work on that. But I was definitely frustrated because we’re a better team than what we’re showing right now. We’re better offensively than how we’re playing. And, to be honest, we work too hard to go out on Sunday and play like that.”
Said Tomsula of Smith: “We need to use him more, and we need to get him more involved. It’s on the checklist.”
Smith and Tomsula said the team’s hard work gives players and coaches confidence they can pull out of their current tailspin.
“When you work like we do – and we work hard – success has to come,” Smith said. “It hasn’t been coming. But it just has to happen.”
Smith said Kaepernick is one of the hardest workers and he was at team headquarters early Monday – the players’ day off – “working and trying to get things straight.”
A week after throwing four interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals, Kaepernick seemed overly cautious against Green Bay. He threw only seven passes beyond 10 yards and connected on only one, the deep throw to Smith. Other long passes went well out of bounds where no one could catch them.
After the game, Kaepernick said he didn’t want to throw any interceptions. “I’m not going to throw a ball into traffic and risk putting this offense and team into a bad situation,” he said.
Asked if Kaepernick was gun-shy after his performance against the Cardinals, Tomsula said it was something he and his staff were trying to figure out.
“That’s what we’re doing today – (seeing) if there were things from the last game that creeped into this game,” Tomsula said. “I mean, you don’t want that to happen, and you work like crazy for that not to happen. But we’re looking at everything.”
Another issue is the defensive pressure Kaepernick has faced. According to Pro Football Focus, only one quarterback, the Miami Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill, has been under duress more often than Kaepernick, who was sacked six times Sunday. The 49ers are on pace to set a franchise record in sacks allowed with 56.
Still, the 49ers have resisted changes on the offensive line. None of their four reserves has played a regular-season snap, and center Daniel Kilgore (leg) isn’t eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list until Week 7.
“Up and down,” Tomsula said when asked to evaluate the offensive line. “Is it an area of concern? (A record of) o-ne and three is an area of concern.”
Smith was asked if he and wide receiver Anquan Boldin are on the same page as Kaepernick. Boldin has been the team’s receiving leader the last two seasons with more than 1,000 yards, but this year is on pace for fewer than 500.
“We’re definitely on the same page with him, but the execution isn’t showing at all on game day,” Smith said. “That has to change or we’re never going anywhere. ... If you can’t pass the ball in 2015, you’re in trouble.”
Et cetera – The 49ers worked out wide receiver Terrell Pyror and linebacker Parys Haralson on Monday. Pryor began his career as a quarterback with the Raiders and switched to receiver this year. Haralson, who was traded by the 49ers to New Orleans in 2013, was cut by the Saints just before the season began.
▪ Wide receiver Quinton Patton suffered a concussion late in Sunday’s game and must undergo the league’s post-concussion protocol.
▪ Tomsula said the knee injury that kept tight end Vernon Davis out of the lineup against the Packers was a “deep contusion” and there was no structural damage.