It ranked among the most memorable plays of the 2012 regular season for the San Francisco 49ers. After leading the team to a 32-yard field goal in his first series as the team’s starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick faced 3rd-and-7 against the then-vaunted Chicago Bears defense.
Kyle Williams lined up in the slot against Kelvin Hayden, shook the Bears’ No. 3 corner without a problem and took off toward the right sideline. Kaepernick hopped slightly forward in the pocket and fired a pass about 33 yards downfield that landed perfectly over Williams’ right shoulder. Williams caught the ball in stride and kept running, finishing with a 57-yard reception after getting tackled at the 3-yard-line by Bears safety Chris Conte. Kaepernick found Vernon Davis on the next play to give the 49ers a 10-0 lead, and a new era in San Francisco began.
(You can watch the play here, with the added bonus of hearing Jon Gruden call him “Kevin Williams.”)
Up to that point, the 49ers weren’t the kind of team to go deep all that often, and usually the vertical game consisted of passes to Davis. Suddenly it appeared that a new field-stretching combination had arrived: Kaepernick-to-Williams. Their first highlight seemed so easy for both players … then Williams was lost for the season the following week with a torn ACL.
“I’ve thought about (that play) a few times,” Williams said.
“I should’ve scored. I shouldn’t have gotten tripped up.”
I asked Williams about that catch on Tuesday afternoon in the 49ers’ locker room, as shown in the video above. Heading into Kaepernick’s first NFL start, the duo had a feeling they’d hook up on a long one.
“Me and Kap have had that rapport since we were on developmental squads and in practice when he first got drafted,” said Williams. “We kind of knew what was going to happen when we got in the game together.”
Against Chicago, Kaepernick also targeted Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss. On Sunday against Green Bay, Williams will be the only familiar face in the 49ers’ revamped (and injury-stricken) receiving corps. After sitting out the preseason (“doctor’s orders”), Williams is ready to catch some more bombs from Kaepernick.
Williams spoke about the receivers’ roles today as well.
“When you’ve got a guy like Crab, he’s definitely the No. 1,” he said. “You could say the same thing about Anquan. The rest of us are going to be in there. I’ll take on those responsibilities as the No. 2, but it’s not going to be limited to me by any means. We’ve got playmakers out there and you’ll see all of us.”
Even if Kaepernick targets guys like Anquan Boldin, Quinton Patton, Marlon Moore or Jon Baldwin more often than Williams against the Packers, the fourth-year receiver should still get chances to make plays.
“I will be returning punts … kickoffs maybe,” said Williams, who steps back into a familiar role with LaMichael James nursing a sprained knee. “I expect to get the ball and do some things with it.”
Even though Williams knew he wasn’t playing in any of the preseason games, I remember watching him in pregame warmups before the 49ers faced the Vikings. The word “intense” doesn’t do justice to the way he ran routes, attacked passes … even his facial expression looked like a guy not quite playing angry, but with the kind of ferocity one doesn’t see too often during the exhibition season.
“It was probably good for me to sit out – it was doctor’s orders, so there was no choice. But it was hard, I hated it. I wanted to get out there and play,” he said.
Now he gets his chance to reprise what he and Kaepernick had going against Chicago during that fateful Monday night game. Kaepernick’s rise to stardom has been chronicled pretty much everywhere you look; now Williams (in a contract season, don’t forget) has a chance to turn that rapport with his quarterback into a career year.