This post probably doesn’t need much introduction. We have ourselves a quarterback controversy in San Francisco, which means a couple different things:
First, all sports talk hosts have been afforded an entire week off for Thanksgiving, because there is literally NO EFFORT NECESSARY to make a show happen. Just flip on the mics, say “Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick?” and watch the phones light up. This is a chance for every 49ers fan to get together and
argue engage in a discussion about who should be the starting quarterback. Most importantly though, there is really no quarterback controversy in the mind of Jim Harbaugh. He probably made his decision about who would start in New Orleans when Smith left the Rams game with a concussion. Harbaugh is coaching this team like Bobby Fisher plays chess. That shouldn’t stop us all from debating this, but it almost makes the debate a moot point.
Moving on. Kaepernick played a really promising game on Monday night. He squelched the lingering ideas about being inaccurate and skittish by standing in the pocket on nearly every play and delivering passes right on his receivers hands. I wanted to highlight a couple of those passes to find out how this performance was possible.
57-yard pass to Kyle Williams
Here’s a look at what Kaepernick saw before he took the snap. He motioned Williams across the line and back, which exposed man coverage, and Lance Briggs is showing blitz in the middle of the defensive line.
As soon as Kaepernick sees his deepest option, Kyle Williams, get a step on the defender, he loads up and chucks the ball. He has Michael Crabtree open coming towards the middle and Mario Manningham open on a sideline route, but instead he waits out Williams and hits him. What’s impressive is how effortlessly he floats this pass deep downfield; 49ers fans are certainly not used to seeing that.
Right into the bread basket: something else you’re probably not accustomed to seeing.
But here’s one more thing that you don’t see everyday: a flawless pocket to throw from. The interior lineman are standing up four Bears at the line of scrimmage while Joe Staley and Anthony Davis have their assignments wheeled around the back. Kaepernick was never in danger of even being breathed on.
32-yard pass to Vernon Davis
The 49ers already have the upper hand thanks to a tricky play design by Greg Roman. The Bears stacked nearly everyone up on the line of scrimmage because the initial formation pointed towards a running play. Then Bruce Miller, Kaepernick and Frank Gore cycled out of the set like a game of musical chairs, and suddenly they were set up in five-wides with Kaepernick in the shotgun.
Just like the pass to Kyle Williams, Kaepernick has choices on this play, but Davis has a step on his man and room to run. Kaepernick delivers yet another accurate ball.
Did I say accurate ball? I meant to say perfect ball. (Note: Ignore Davis leaping on this play like the ball was thrown high. We all know he does that on nearly every catch, rather inexplicably at times).
But yet again, Kaepernick had a perfect pocket to throw from. He had plenty of room to run, so it’s good to see that he waited out the throw rather than scrambling, but there was literally no pressure from the Bears’ pass rushers.
10-yard touchdown pass to Crabtree
Here’s a look at Kaepernick’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Crabtree in the third quarter. He goes through his progressions from left to right while dropping back, making four reads before deciding on his target.
Then Kaepernick shifts the pocket left and hits read four, a wide open Crabtree in the end zone. How did he have so much time to make his progressions, you ask?
Yet another perfect pocket.
Kaepernick’s movement before the pass was not to elude pressure, but rather to put himself in the best position to make the throw. This was yet another in many examples of how the 49ers’ offensive line played it’s best game of the season for their second year quarterback, and he recognized as much on Twitter after the game:
They sure did. On Monday night, Kaepernick was able to showcase all of the progress he has made since the 49ers drafted him in the second round less than two years ago. He was comfortable under center, poised in the pocket, made great reads and threw accurate passes. Still, the caveat is this performance was concurrent with a fantastic game from his offensive line. It certainly doesn’t mean he’ll fall apart under pressure, but it something to be considered as this quarterback controversy rages on.