SAN FRANCISCO -- If you believe that Aldon Smith's presence made any difference -- positive or negative -- for the 49ers in Sunday's miserable 27-7 loss to the Colts, feel free to do so.
But you would be wrong.
Smith's situation after his DUI arrest Friday is a sensitive matter. It's also largely a personal one. The 49ers' questionable decision to let him play outside linebacker Sunday can be debated.
However, strictly in football terms, it wasn't anybody on the defensive unit who caused the most consternation Sunday.
In the NFL, you can't win when your offense produces only seven points in a game -- or just 10 points total over back-to-back weeks. And there's your paltry truth about the 49ers offense, after a 29-3 loss at Seattle on Sept. 15 and Sunday's mess.
Really? One touchdown and one field goal, combined, in two games? That's not an NFL offense. That's the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"Too many three-and-outs," said 49ers running back Frank Gore after Sunday's defeat. "We aren't getting in those types of rhythms. We've got to see what we're not doing right. We've got time."
Do they? This is a short week. There's a game Thursday night at St. Louis, where the 49ers scored only 13 points in a loss last season. They had better figure out the problem quickly.
And if they don't? The 49ers have between six and eight home dates remaining at Candlestick Park, depending on how many postseason games the 49ers wind up hosting. And after Sunday's offensive sluggishness, you'd have to bet the under.
It's not even so much about the unimpressive scoreboard totals and statistics. Although they are indeed unimpressive. It's more about how the 49ers offense and quarterback Colin Kaepernick look to the eye.
Kaepernick completed 13 of 27 passing attempts Sunday for 150 yards, was sacked three times, ran seven times for 20 yards. But the visuals were more striking. He seemed to be half-a-beat ahead, or half-a-beat behind, or indecisive regarding his next move when his initial passing reads weren't there.
Also, Kaepernick's added value on the read-option play was not utilized much for the third straight week. When it has been used, the results have been minimal.
The quarterback's postgame session with media members Sunday was typically succinct. Kaepernick certainly didn't make excuses or claim that the Colts' pass coverage tricked him.
"They played what they showed us on film," Kaepernick said. "We have to go out and execute."
The Colts were doing nothing special?
"They put a spy on me," Kaepernick said. "So they have one more to account for me."
Is he frustrated?
"I'm frustrated with myself," Kaepernick said, "because I have to play better."
Hmmmmm. After the stunning rise of Kaepernick in 2012 during the 49ers' run to the Super Bowl, there was much speculation about how opposing defensive coordinators would study hours of video during the offseason and come up with potential ways to stop him.
We might be seeing the result of those many video hours. Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano might have offered some clues about it after Sunday's game. The first order of business appears to be keeping Kaepernick's legs from doing damage.
"I think they only ran a couple of read-options today," Pagano said of the 49ers, "and our guys did an unbelievable job on that."
Pagano also noted that the Colts defensive backs did a good job of "plastering," or sticking with the 49ers receivers once the initial patterns were completed and Kaepernick began to scramble and improvise. With proper "plastering," no receivers came open for him to hit when that happened. And the Colts' pass rush kept containment. Hence, the three sacks.
None of this would matter, of course, if the 49er receivers could get open on their first looks. But with wideout Michael Crabtree effectively out for the season and tight end Vernon Davis inactive Sunday, the Colts could concentrate on double-teaming the only truly dangerous 49ers receiver, Anquan Boldin.
In Sunday's early going, the 49ers appeared to have found a workaround to the problem. They lined up and ran the ball powerfully. Gore had three carries for 54 yards on the second offensive drive of the game, their only scoring drive. It appeared the 49ers were going to bang their way downfield all day.
"I think a lot of people thought that," acknowledged offensive lineman Alex Boone.
But then the 49ers went away from the run. So what was Boone thinking after the game?
"I'm thinking that if we're the team we think we are, we're going to be all right," Boone said. "You're going to have bad days. We can't win every game."
Coach Jim Harbaugh's postgame remarks were open to interpretation. He said that the offensive problems were mostly about "not having the opportunity to make plays" and said Kaepernick's mechanics and technique were fine.
"I don't think that there is something technically wrong, that I see," Harbaugh said. "I put that really on all of us."
The 49er team flight to St. Louis leaves at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Between now and then, they'd better find an offense to put on the plane.
Contact Mark Purdy at email@example.com.