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September 22, 2013
"Felt flat, looked flat" -- 49ers in trouble after latest blowout loss


SAN FRANCISCO - Two-game losing streaks are never good, but the 49ers' current skid seems particularly dark.

After falling 27-7 to the Colts Sunday, the 49ers revealed outside linebacker Aldon Smith who crashed his car in a suburban front yard two days earlier, would miss the next game while he seeks help for a substance abuse issue.

They started the game without tight end Vernon Davis and finished it without linebacker Patrick Willis and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, both of whom were hurt in the second half and who are in danger of missing the next game. Their high-profile quarterback had a second abysmal performance, the offense scored in single digits for the second-straight game and the coach has lost two contests in a row for the first time in his tenure.

To top it off, the 49ers must travel to play the one division opponent - St. Louis - they could not beat last season and have a short week to prepare for the encounter. "We have no choice. No choice but to find our way," said Jim Harbaugh, who was short on answers for why his team faltered.

A few minutes later Harbaugh, general manager Trent Baalke and owner Jed York stood next to Smith, 23, as he admitted he had a "problem."

"It's something I will get fixed," Smith said. "I'll do everything in my power to make sure this never happens again. I also want to let everybody know that, once again, I'm sorry. Like I said, this won't happen again."

York then spoke, confirming that Smith, an All-Pro linebacker with 19 ½ sacks last season, will miss Thursday's game. He said Smith's leave of absence would be indefinite. Smith played nearly every defensive snap against the Colts, and he finished the game with five tackles, including one for a loss. Asked why Smith played Sunday if he was intent on rehab, York said benching the linebacker didn't make sense.

"Sitting someone down and paying them to sit down when they're going to seek treatment in the future -- that didn't seem like an appropriate punishment," York said. "I know it might not sound reasonable. But for Aldon to be able to face the media, face his team and take full responsibility for what he's doing -- we felt that was the best situation for Aldon himself and for the team and ultimately for the community at large."

Smith was found in a stupor in the front seat of his pickup early Friday, his foot still pressing the accelerator. He was arrested for DUI and marijuana possession. It was his second DUI arrest in the last year and a half. Because of that, the NFL is likely to suspend him at some point, perhaps next season when the case has been adjudicated.

"We're not worried about that," York said of the suspension. "We're not trying to circumvent what the NFL will do. This is about making sure Aldon has the opportunity to work on something, get better."

For the second straight game, the 49ers were close at halftime but deteriorated in the third and fourth quarters. Penalties kept Colts drives alive and bad tackling - a problem during a Week 1 win against the Packers - was an issue again.

Late in the third quarter, the defense had the Colts pinned at their own 9-yard line facing third and 9. Andrew Luck threw a two-yard pass to receiver Reggie Wayne, who then weaved through tackles and broke others on his way to a 25-yard gain.

Willis was one of the defenders left sprawled in Wayne's wake, and he had to be helped off the field with a groin injury. With a short week to recover, Willis' availability Thursday is dubious. A week after Seattle's Marshawn Lynch had 98 rushing yards, the 49ers gave up 95 yards and a touchdown to Indianapolis' Ahmad Bradshaw.

"Felt flat, looked flat," cornerback Tarell Brown said of the defensive effort. "We all have to come out with a lot more intensity and start fast. We haven't started fast all year, and we're used to starting fast."

In 2011 no team could run against the 49ers, who didn't allow a rushing touchdown - by Lynch - until Week 16. Through three weeks this season, they have allowed six rushing touchdown, including three by the Colts.

"Stunned," safety Donte Whitner said. "We didn't play 49ers defense, and we'll go back to the drawing board. And we'll get it all corrected, come out and play with passion, be physical and disciplined and we'll go in and get a win."

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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