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Torrey Smith play highlights Kaepernick's struggles

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It was a play that summed up the 49ers' entire season. Or, from a personnel perspective, one quarterback's puzzling descent from franchise star to franchise problem.

Sunday in St. Louis, the Niners were leading 3-0 with 5:32 to go in the first quarter of an eventual 27-6 loss. The Niners are backed up in their own end after a punt and penalty. By the end of the possession, Michael Brockers will stick it to 49ers running back Mike Davis in the end zone, resulting in a safety.

But this is two plays before that. First-and-10. Kaepernick under center, the Rams' defense in attack mode. But Jeff Fisher's unit is overzealous, so sure a run is coming that no one bothers to cover 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith on the far side of the field.

If Kaepernick recognizes the mistake and quickly checks into a pass, the only thing standing between Smith and a 97-yard touchdown (and 10-0 49ers lead) is the act of a catch and making one late-arriving safety miss.

Instead, this happens ...

Smith, who took the 49ers' money and became the NFL's forgotten man, finished with two catches for 19 yards. Kaepernick, who has faced criticism in the past for a lack of field vision, had another lowlight affixed to his lost season.

"No, I didn't see the corner close down (toward the middle of the field) on that," Kaepernick said after the game, per the San Francisco Chronicle. "That's something I should have been able to adjust out of."

It appears coach Jim Tomsula has finally lost faith in Kaepernick. The quarterback has been told he will be benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert for Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, sources informed of the situation told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport on Monday. Jay Glazer's earlier report that Kaepernick was "on an island" in the Niners' locker room was an eye-opener last week, and Tomsula risks losing his 2-6 team if he continued to stand by a regressing quarterback.

Gabbert is no one's version of a savior (ask the Jaguars), but Tomsula isn't exactly a coach with an embarrassment of options.

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