San Francisco’s last two games at Candlestick Park have been eerily similar. Both against Green Bay, both wins, and both dominated by Colin Kaepernick. However, unlike the NFC Divisional Round matchup last year when Kaepernick torched the Packers on the ground, today the battle was won in the air. Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns on route to a 34-28 win. For the San Francisco 49ers this was the ideal performance from their young quarterback because it showed that if a team prepares for the option, he can pick apart their defense with his arm. As good of a sign as this performance was for the Niners, it was equally as bad for the rest of the league. The Niners have a quarterback who can make accurate throws from inside or outside the pocket, run for large gains, and make smart decisions. Not to mention he has only made 11 career starts and despite his already impressive numbers, will probably improve with experience.
As talented as Kaepernick is, Sundays’ game showed that once again the Niners offensive line is as good as any in the league. At one point in the game Kaepernick had 16 drop-backs and hadn’t been knocked down, rushed or sacked. Although the Packers did eventually sack him twice, it never seemed like Kaepernick was under duress. He either had a safe pocket to step up and throw from, or had the right side of the field accessible to roll out and make a pass on the run. As long as the Niners offensive line continues to give Kaepernick time and space, he should have no problem finding open receivers down field.
Despite the great offensive output, not every aspect of the Niners game was up to par with where it needs to be to compete for a Super Bowl. Their secondary was torched by Aaron Rodgers, who finished the day with 333 yards passing, three touchdowns and one interception. The secondary’s lone bright spot came from the guy who caught that interception—rookie safety, Eric Reid. Reid not only collected his first career interception, but also registered six tackles and one pass breakup. He did however, just like the rest of the Niners defense, fail to make several tackles that allowed Green Bay to pick up first downs and stay in the game. Last year the Niners were great at sticking to the ball carrier and bringing him down. Today, they uncharacteristically tried to tackle guys with their helmets; this is a bad technique for tackling and a recipe for concussions. The defense needs to start tightening their coverage and making better tackles because it’s unrealistic to expect the offense to bail them out every game.
Speaking of the offense, as good as they performed on Sunday, they are not a complete unit yet. Until they add another proven receiver, or get back either Michael Crabtree or Mario Manningham, they will have a tough time scoring in the air against quality defenses. Sure, Anquan Boldin had over 200 yards against the Packers, but it’s not realistic to expect many repeat performances like this. As a tight end, Vernon Davis cannot completely fill the void of Crabtree and Manningham, and despite Kyle Williams’ speed, he doesn’t offer much size. Another proven receiver could also come in handy lets say, in a 4th and goal situation with the Super Bowl on the line. Bottom line—give Kaepernick more options because better defenses will more effectively defend against Boldin than the Packers did on Sunday.
Going forward I expect the Niners offense to only get better and their defense to shake off the rust and start making the routine plays. With their world class coaching and incredible talent on both sides of the ball, as long as the Niners can stay healthy, they should enjoy another successful season. For the fans, hopefully this one ends with one more playoff win than last year.