Even without any impressive out of the pocket bursts of speed, Colin Kaepernick proved once again that he’s the present and future for the San Francisco 49ers thanks to his passing ability without forgetting to mention the immense offensive line that makes it so hard to actually get to him.
The Green Bay Packers were a lot closer this time compared to last season, but in order for them to beat the 49ers, they need a perfect Aaron Rodgers. He wasn’t far from it, but it wasn’t enough, as Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns, even though the actual hero at the end was Frank Gore running in for the touchdown that won them the game 34-28.
It’s like the Packers waited all offseason for this game, in order to prove that they won’t be torched by the read-option running once more. Kaepernick rushed for only 22 yards on 7 carries; the 49ers were halted at 90 yards on 34 carries. But the Packers don’t have a good enough defense to make sure the passing and the running are both taken care of. Kaepernick enjoyed the presence of Anquan Boldin in what turned out to be his best game ever.
The Packers have a running game, although Eddie Lacy is more of a theoretical threat; someone the defense has to respect than a bona fide juggernaut on the ground. He scored the touchdown that put the Packers up 28-24 with 8:26 left in the game, but was halted at 41 yards and 14 carries. The arm of Rodgers (333 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) remains the main weapon this team has to offer. The 49ers did quite well against him when sending added pressure, which usually came in third down situations. Rodgers finished the game 4-of-8 for 45 yards on 3rd down, converting only twice.
The thing that worked better than anything else for Kaepernick was the play-action, with the Packers so intent on stopping the run. He was 9-of-11 for 152 yards and a pair of touchdowns using play-action fakes, making extremely good use of Vernon Davis, who mostly played from the slot position, finishing with 98 yards on 6 catches with a couple of touchdowns. All the talk of him being ignored went out the window.
Boldin more than made up for the absence of Crabtree, something the 49ers were worried about during preseason. Boldin became the sixth active receiver, following Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Roddie White, Plaxico Burress and Calvin Johnson with multiple 200-receiving yards games in his career, catching 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown.
Feeling calm and confident in the pockets was the key to Kaepernick’s success. He completed 69% of his passes and threw for 350 yards and 2 touchdowns from the pocket, a lot better than his performances from last season against the Packers (55%) when it comes to throwing from the pocket. It enabled him to be very effective on third-down situations throughout the game and especially the first half, going 5-of-6 third-down passes for 2 touchdowns as the 49ers converted 60% of their third down situations in the first half.
The defense and secondary are still vulnerable against quarterbacks like Rodgers, who doesn’t have the most talented bunch of receivers. The running game has to do better. But the 49ers are loaded on offense, maybe more than ever before, as Colin Kaepernick continues to hurdle over every personal obstacle given to him, showing a new skill set or level of performance we didn’t see before every time.