The return of controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick to the starting lineup for the first time in 11 months couldn’t reverse the flagging fortunes of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
The Bills pummeled the 49ers 45-16 in Buffalo, where Kaepernick was booed by some while others chanted “U-S-A” prior to the pre-game performance of the American national anthem — during which Kaepernick continued the protest in which he has declined to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest racial oppression and police brutality.
To be honest, I was focused on football,” Kaepernick said. “I really wasn’t listening to what was going on in the stands.”
Kaepernick has been the focus of fierce debate over his anthem protest, which critics call disrespectful.
His return to the starting lineup — part of the 49ers’ bid to turn around a dismal 1-5 start to the season — prompted renewed criticism, although there were also supporters of Kaepernick’s activism in evidence.
“I had some Bills fans come up before the game and say they support me,” Kaepernick said. “I think it all depends on who the person is. At the end of the day, I’m going to continue to fight for what I’m fighting for.
“I think the message carries weight because people realize what’s happening … it’s something that needs to be addressed.”
Asked about a report that someone in the stands threw a bottle at him, Kaepernick said: “If they did, they didn’t have very good aim.”
While Kaepernick said he didn’t feel rusty, he wasn’t able to spark the 49ers. He completed 13 of 29 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 66 yards.
“Felt great to be on the field again,” he said. “It felt good to be out there and trying to help my team win. Having that opportunity meant a lot.”
But, ultimately, the 49ers had no answer for Buffalo’s ground game. LeSean McCoy ran for 140 yards and three touchdowns for the Bills, whose 312 net rushing yards were the most by any NFL team since the 49ers had 350 in a December 12, 2014, loss to San Diego.