Jerry Rice is concerned that the 49ers are blowing an opportunity.
After losing 13-10 to the Rams when Colin Kaepernick fumbled on a quarterback sneak at the goal line in the final seconds, San Francisco is 4-4 and hardly looking like the team that has gone to the past three NFC championship games.
"Maybe the door's starting to close a little bit," Rice says.
Kaepernick is convinced that he scored a touchdown before fumbling, but Rice says that's missing the point.
"It never should come down to that play," Rice says. "You had so many opportunities during that football game to put the St. Louis Rams away. Somehow, you have to be able to get that ball in the end zone. It backfired on them."
It was the 49ers' second home loss at the new Levi's Stadium, with the other coming against the Bears, a 3-5 team like the Rams. When asked about what the 49ers need to improve, Rice is hesitant to single out one area.
"They have a lot they need to improve," he says. "The offensive line, Colin Kaepernick getting the ball out of his hands and being more productive in the red zone. That was something we always practiced back in the day. You need to get touchdowns, you need to get field goals. Just going out and dominating teams. I don't see that with the Niners this year."
The 49ers have not lost more than four games since 2010, before Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach. With Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and a number of other high caliber players on the roster, there is a win-now type feeling in San Francisco. Rice is fearful the 49ers' window of opportunity may be narrowing this season.
"There's a big sense of urgency to get it done," he says. "They need to get confidence again and go out there and play their best football."
Boldin is one player Rice is content with this season. The 34-year-old wide receiver nabbed his 900th career reception in the loss to the Rams. For the former Cardinal and Raven, the feat was accomplished in 164 games, the third-fastest pace of all-time behind Marvin Harrison (149) and Andre Johnson (150). Behind Boldin are Torry Holt (166) and Rice (168).
"He's one of these guys who knows how to create on the football field," Rice says "He knows how to find an open spot where the quarterback can deliver the football. I think you saw that in the game against St. Louis. He was able to get uncovered and Colin Kaepernick hit him with that pass that he scored on."
Another receiver making headlines last week was Giants rookie Odell Beckham Jr. During warmups before a game against the Indianapolis Colts, the former LSU star put on a circus act for the fans by snatching a series of pass out of the air with one hand, leading to some viral videos.
"It's just amazing how he can control his body like that," Rice says. "I'm one of those guys who out of desperation will stick their hand out there and you try to make an incredible catch and see what happens. It's probably something that he has done over and over again at practice. I think he's only going to get better."
Looking at the broader picture of the NFL, Rice notes two breakout teams this season.
"I think with [the] Pittsburgh [Steelers], what they're doing right now is great. Big Ben has 12 touchdowns the last two weeks and Antonio Brown, the way he gets open, it's killing defenses," Rice says. "Also, the Arizona Cardinals, that team is 7-1. We knew they would be a factor this year, but many, they're getting it done."
In addition to soaking up lots of football, Rice is still busy these days with endorsement deals and business opportunities. One is the MetLife Premier Client Group. MetLife and Rice are using football metaphors to educate consumers about the importance of having a balanced portfolio. Like football, financial planning includes a team with a smart offense and a solid defense.