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Another bad loss has 49ers in a downward spiral

  • San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick is captured in the backfield by Jerrell Freeman during a game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013 in San Francisco. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)

SAN FRANCISCO — The 49ers have dealt with their share of challenges in Jim Harbaugh's two-plus-year tenure as head coach, like losing their starting quarterback and having their roster poached via free agency, not to mention the white-hot glare of a Super Bowl. But they've never had to deal with this: a losing record.

The 49ers were beaten 27-7 by the visiting Indianapolis Colts at Candlestick Park on Sunday, falling to 1-2 as they dropped back-to-back games for the first time since Harbaugh took over in 2011. The Seattle loss a week earlier may have been more one-sided, but this one — at home, against a team that narrowly outlasted the long-suffering Raiders in Week 1 — was ultimately more disheartening.

And the road doesn't get much easier. The 49ers travel to St. Louis for a Thursday-night game before returning home to face the Houston Texans, a team that went 12-4 last year.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Indianapolis Colts

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“There's no way to wash it away until we go out there Thursday and get a 'W,' ” safety Donte Whitner said. “Last week was terrible. This week's going to be a lot worse and we brought it on ourselves.”

Stung by the blowout loss at Seattle, and hampered by injuries at key positions, the Niners never found a way to tame Indianapolis. They

flailed in the passing game, committed ill-timed penalties and seemed to wilt in the late stages — again. They have been outscored 31-0 in the fourth quarter over the past two weeks.

San Francisco trailed just 13-7 when the Colts got the ball with 11:14 left in the game, but it was the beginning of the end. Indy mounted a crushing 11-play, 80-yard drive, sustained by two defensive penalties on pass plays, and second-year quarterback Andrew Luck finished it with a perfectly executed bootleg off of a run fake; he strolled into the end zone and gave the Colts a 20-7 lead.

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