The San Francisco 49ers have gotten back on track thanks to rededicating themselves to the run. Frank Gore is the catalyst for this offense. However, when Colin Kaepernick is playing the way he did against the Tennessee Titans, this team is hard to stop. Kaepernick didn’t light up the boxscore, so what was it that made his performance a success?
First and foremost, the thing that I saw Kaepernick do was play his kind of game. He is at his best when he is playing his renegade style of football. Kaepernick is a freelance artist that is not going to blossom if he is restricted from playing his game. He can’t get caught up in the desire to prove that he is a “pocket passer.”
His arm strength and accuracy does allow him to be lethal from within the pocket but the dual threat ability that he has must be highlighted. What good is an entertainment center with surround sound if you never turn it up to feel it’s impact? Similarly, what good is a player as dynamic as Kaepernick that isn’t given the chance to murder defenses by running the ball when all else fails?
This is exactly what Kaepernick did against the Titans. He kept the ball on a few read option plays which resulted in first downs. This gives the defense another thing to worry about. One of the defenders, usually a defensive end has to key on the quarterback, often times ignoring the running back. The running back is usually another defender’s man, primarily a linebacker. It forces defenders to commit and allows Kaepernick to react accordingly. More importantly, it gives defensive coordinators another thing to focus on and be concerned with.
Jim Harbaugh tells his quarterbacks to make sure that they get at least one first down with their legs every game. He tells them that because he knows how that breaks a defense’s back. Kaepernick did just that during a third and 11 situation in the second quarter. The Titans had the play defended well but they didn’t account for Kaepernick’s ability to scramble. The middle of the field was wide open and he took full advantage. The result was a 20 yard run and on top of that, the defense didn’t even get to hit him because he stepped out of bounds before anyone could do so. That deflates a defense!
There was another play in the second half in which Kaepernick kept the ball on a read option play. He ran 20 yards for the first touchdown of the game. The acceleration that he showed towards the end of the run is one of the things that sets him apart from other quarterbacks. His ability to get to top speed is underrated. Sports science clocked him at 27 mph during his run against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional playoffs last year. They also showed that he got to full speed in four steps.
If you watched the video linked above, you will see that Sports Science also highlighted the pinpoint accuracy that Kaepernick possesses. The accuracy was on display when he threw a perfect over the shoulder pass on a third down in the first quarter. The ball was placed in just the right spot for Vernon Davis to catch the ball in bounds. It was his first pass of the game. What a way to start, a 24 yard drop shot for a first down in a third and two situation.
After the game against the St. Louis Rams, Kaepernick said that he needs to trust his receivers. He showed how much he trusted Anquan Boldin on a couple of throws. Boldin is one of those receivers that are open even when they are covered. Kaepernick is aware of this and gave him a few chances to make plays. One of them was a 25 yard pass that required supreme anticipation and timing. Alterraun Verner has 22 pass breakups this year. Verner was running stride for stride with Boldin but that didn’t stop Kaepernick from throwing to his play maker. Boldin made a diving fingertip catch. Another thing of note was that this play took place on third down. There is a pattern of big plays on third downs developing for Kaepernick, especially in this game.
Kaepernick gave his players the chance to make plays. “They made my job easy,” he said. “It’s huge when your players make plays for you.”
The last part of Kaepernick’s game that has to be highlighted is his ability to change the play at the line of scrimmage. Granted, he is no Peyton Manning, but Kaepernick has done an excellent job of changing the play because of something he sees pre-snap. In some cases, he checked to the read option because of openings that he saw. “It’s just another part of our offense but week to week it will depend on what the defense is doing. They were giving us the opportunity with the looks they were giving us.”
Jim Harbaugh has full trust in his quarterback’s ability to check to a new play at the line. “Kap’s a tough guy. He has a wonderful competitive heart. He continues to get better in every game. He’s very talented from both a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint. He’s a quick thinker. Memorizes things extremely well. Can juggle multiple things in his mind.” Harbaugh said. That is a ringing endorsement by the head coach.
Colin Kaepernick has his swagger back. The dual threat quarterback is hitting his stride again and ready to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the next game which will take place in London.