Randy Moss finished with three catches for 27 yards against the Vikings. (Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)
The 49ers found themselves struggling in Minnesota on Sunday, unable to move the football consistently or stretch the Vikings' defense through the air. It was precisely the situation San Francisco added Randy Moss for, right?
Moss, despite making three catches for 27 yards earlier in the game, spent the fourth quarter of San Francisco's 24-13 loss on the sidelines, while QB Alex Smith repeatedly looked for Mario Manningham -- the other free agent wide receiver brought in by the 49ers this summer, in hopes of sparking an underwhelming passing attack.
Moss's fourth-quarter benching was made all the more noteworthy by the fact that it came in Minnesota, sight of some of Moss's greatest years in the NFL.
Moss had a touchdown catch in the 49ers' Week 1 win over Green Bay, but he has struggled to find a real steady role in the San Francisco offense so far this season. He entered Sunday with the fourth-most receptions on the 49ers, behind Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Manningham. But Jim Harbaugh's apparent decision to keep him off the field late, as San Francisco attempted to mount a comeback, does not speak highly of Moss' spot in the pecking order.
Moss also heard it from the Vikings' fans following a dropped pass -- a moment that probably did not help him in Harbaugh's eyes.
The reality is that the 49ers were hoping to strike gold when they signed Moss, who sat out 2011, to a one-year deal. However, San Francisco's offense is far from built around its receivers and, at least most weeks, a lack of huge production from that spot won't do in the 49ers.
In other words, any production San Francisco can get from Moss is gravy. That may not be what Moss wants to hear -- he surely thinks he can be a dominant presence out there still -- but he might have a better grasp on the situation after Sunday.
The risk in bringing in Moss is that something like a brief benching can spiral into a problem in the locker room, and it's Moss' sometimes petulant attitude that scared teams other than San Francisco away.