Leading up to today, Colin Kaepernick has been next to perfect as the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.
Today against the Rams was his first rough patch, as the Niners lost in St. Louis to the Rams by the score of 16-13 in overtime.
The Niners’ defense was stellar, holding the the Rams to under 300 yards and Steven Jackson to just 48 yards on 21 carries. However, it would be a few costly mistakes that would lead to the Niners’ demise.
San Francisco got off to a good start in the first quarter, as an 11-play, 60-yard drive, resulting in a one-yard Frank Gore touchdown gave them an early 7-0 lead. Gore had an extremely efficient game, running for 84 yards on nine carries.
That 7-0 lead would hold for a while, as the Niners’ defense held the Rams scoreless in the first half, but were unable to extend the lead.
St. Louis finally got on the board with under seven minutes to play in the third quarter on a safety. Taking the snap from his own 17-yard line, Kaepernick was pressured and scrambled all the way back to his own end zone, and threw the ball away. Unfortunately, it failed to reach the line of scrimmage, resulting in an intentional grounding and a safety.
The Niners were able to respond on their ensuing drive on a 94-yard, 13-play sequences ending a 23-yard field goal by David Akers. Kaepernick hooked up with wide receiver Michael Crabtree four different times on that drive.
So, with the score at 10-2 heading into the fourth quarter, the Niners must have felt pretty confident that their defense could bring home the victory.
But nobody saw this coming: on a third-and-three play from the 49ers’ 17-yard line with under five minutes to play, Kaepernick and Ted Ginn Jr. failed to connect on a toss play. The toss sailed over the head of Ginn, and was recovered by Janoris Jenkins who slid into the end zone. The Rams were successful on the two-point conversion to tie the game at 10-10.
“Just pitched it high, my fault all the way,” said Kaepernick. “Should have just kept it, should have played it safe, let our defense play”
The teams would trade field goals at the end of regulation to force overtime. Kaepernick’s 50-yard run led three points from Akers, but Sam Bradford engineered a clutch drive in the waning moments to set up a game-tying, 53-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein as time expired.
Unlike in Week 11, this game did not end in a tie, although it nearly did.
The 49ers had their shot to win the game midway through overtime when received great field position, starting the drive from midfield. They set up a 51-yard field goal by Akers, but the struggling veteran missed it wide to the right.
“It’s a game of inches, I probably missed it by 3 or 4 inches,” Akers said after the game. “Just feel horrible for letting teammates, organization and fans down.”
That, in turn, gave the Rams decent field position. Jackson, who was limited by the Niners’ defense all game, ran the ball five times to the NIners’ 37-yard line. Zuerlein, unlike Akers, was able to convert on a 54-yard field goal to win the game for the Rams in overtime.
This game was characterized by Kaepernick’s mistakes: his scrambling that gave the Rams a safety and a botched toss-sweep that led to the tying touchdown. St. Louis’ defense actually scored as many points as their offense thanks to those miscues by San Francisco.
Kaepernick was remorseful after the game: “I gave up those points that were on the score board for the Rams, 100 percent my fault.”
Despite that, Harbaugh made it clear in the postgame press conference that Kaepernick would remain the starter next week.
The Niners are now 8-3-1 following today’s loss. They will fly back home to take on the Miami Dolphins next Sunday.