It may have been a 34-3 blowout win for the San Francisco Forty-Niners on Sunday night, but it was not all roses for th team in red and gold. The defense and special teams were the stars of the night. Especially Tramaine Brock, who definitely stole the third corner position from Nnamdi Asmougha with two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. But on the other side of the ball things were not so smooth. Scoring 27 points is an accomplishment no doubt, but the Niners offense usually had great field position to work with and a huge lead. It seems that in NFL once a big lead has been established it often begins a snowball effect.
Frank Gore showed once again that he is still a legitimate running back and was relentless in fighting for extra yards. Vernon Davis also had a good game based on stats a lone, but most of his yardage came on a 64 yard catch with the game pretty much already sealed. The rest of the offense? Pretty average, perhaps most surprisingly, Colin Kaepernick.
Ever since his aerial explosion in Green Bay, Kaepernick’s play has been quiet. It’s been a weird last couple of games for him, and as I watched him against the Texans I couldn’t help but to think he is currently playing a very Alex Smith-type of role. He is a better third down passer than Smith, and he is more mobile, but the last two games he has thrown for a total of 280 yards. Those are Smith like numbers, except his completion percentage has been a measly 52.6.
To be clear, this is not an article saying Kaepernick is worse than Smith or that I think the Niners made a mistake in trading Smith. Kaepernick is a star and he lead the team to a Super Bowl birth, but I think it is interesting that his current role is that of a game manager. When Smith was starting the Niners opened up the passing game with the running game, and that still holds true through these first five games of the season. So while Kaepernick was brought in because he provided something that Smith did not, they are still using the same old Smith formula. Clearly it’s a smart choice considering they have won a lot of games using it, but it’s also an interesting decision to tone down the offense in favor of a more conservative play. Especially with a quarterback as dynamic as Kaepernick.
My only guess as to why they are doing this is that the Niners receiving corps is atrocious and the coaches know it. The only players Kaepernick consistently throws to is Davis and Anquan Boldin, everyone else has produced nothing. Until the receiving corps returns to full strength with both Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham in the lineup, its may be more of the same from the Niners offense. Crabtree was a stud last year, and Manningham is a solid receiver in his own right too. So help is on the way. But it will be a few more weeks of having Kyle Williams and Johnathan Baldwin as his third and fourth targets. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning may be able to make those guys studs, but a young quarterback needs solid options to throw to, and clearly these receivers are not cutting it. I expect them to open the passing offense up more when those guys return. Right now though, it seems as though the Niners are keeping their Ferrari in the garage.