After yesterday’s post, it was quickly brought to my attention (Thanks, Ned Cartmell) that Colin Kaepernick’s struggles were nothing out of ordinary. In fact, true to Cartmell’s point, ESPN’s Mike Sando found that the QBR scores of pressured quarterbacks “aren’t very good even for the league leaders.”
“[Pressure] creates problems even for the quickest decision-makers,” Sando argued. “Sure, they’ll beat the pressure some of the time, but defenses are going to prevail most of the time.”
A look at QBR when pressured demonstrates that Kaepernick was one of the best quarterbacks in the league last year when faced with pressure.
And so, while this certainly injures the point I made yesterday, it doesn’t completely invalidate it. A look at Kaepernick’s playoff performance when pressured shows a greater deficiency in high leverage situations.
In the divisional round, despite the 49ers dominance, Kaepernick struggled mightily against pressure. In nine attempts, Kaepernick completed zero passes (though one was dropped) and was intercepted once — which was returned to for a touchdown. He was the only quarterback in the Divisional round to not complete a pass under duress.
In this round, Kaepernick was only pressured on four of his 23 dropbacks. That’s impressive, to say the least. He took one sack, which doesn’t bode well for his Sack%. Ultimately, these four pressures weren’t overly disruptive — though it’s hard to draw any conclusion (let alone a definitive one) when the offensive line dominants the line of scrimmage.
The Super Bowl is significant for reasons already noted on the previous post. But, in case you forgot — or were so blinded by rage you didn’t bother to finish reading — here’s a refresher: Kaepernick was sacked three times and threw one interception on 11 pressures. Six of these pressures and two of the sacks came from his blindside, which was consistent with the struggles he had faced last year. This earned him a QB rating of 50.6 and a PFF rating of -0.5, while Joe Flacco earned a QB rating of 97.3 and a PFF rating of 2.1 in pressured attempts. Flacco completed five of seven for 60 yards (The two incompletions were throw aways). Ultimately, the contrast here is as stark as it is significant.
Though the charts are superfluous (I just like making them), the stats are not. Of course, they’re tainted by the sample size, but that’s true of all of his stats. In any case, I’m not suggesting that there is a major flaw in Kaepernick’s game. But I am suggesting that there is in fact a flaw — and it just so happens to be one that proved ugliest in the playoffs and Super Bowl. Whether it hinders the 49ers this season is yet to be seen, obviously. I won’t speculate on as much. Still, it did hinder them in Super Bowl. When the team needed Kaepernick to be at his coolest, he was not. This is certainly permissible given his relative inexperience on such a big stage (and the fact that nobody on the 49ers really performed up to his potential). But it is still something that’ll need to be improved up in this coming season.