The duel between Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith wasn’t exactly one sides, but the San Francisco 49ers, beating the Kansas City Chiefs 22-17, proved they got the better of the whole internal exchange, getting a week of relative silence thanks to the victory regarding the whole Jim Harbaugh rumor mill.
In the right system, Alex Smith doesn’t make too many mistakes. He won’t ruin the game for your team. But it’s also hard to see him as leading incredible fourth quarter comebacks. It just doesn’t happen without a big arm or quick feet. He’s not a bad runner, but he can’t create something out of nothing. He’s solid, but not special in pretty much any attribute. With the Chiefs needing something special on those final drives while the 49ers kept scoring field goals, there was nothing from Smith to indicate a comeback win was going to happen.
Colin Kaepernick? There are things Smith is better at, but overall, and the results speak for themselves, the 49ers are probably better off with Kaepernick. He has the bigger arm, and has the running ability to make things happen, especially when the blitz is about to reach him, opening a lot of room for him to operate in. He’s not the most accurate thrower against a standard pass rush, but his athleticism makes him capable of compensating for that.
This was never going to be a high scoring game. The Chiefs have too good of a defense for that, the Niners as well. With just one turnover in the game (Alex Smith throwing an interception), it came down to making the most of opportunities, and the 49ers got five field goals from Phil Dawson and one touchdown by Stevie Johnson off a Kaepernick throw to win the game. Maybe more than anything it was the 4th-and-1 fake punt play that delivered the game.
With the Chiefs leading 17-16, the 49ers began the fourth quarter on their own 27. Frank Gore, who finished with 107 yards on 18 carries, couldn’t get anything up the middle, leading to a fourth and 1 on the 49ers 32. Jim Harbaugh went for it, getting three yards and a first down on a fake punt, and the rest was the Niners advancing twice to score field goals, while the Chiefs punted once and got intercepted on their final drive, never coming close to scoring again.
Jamaal Charles had a good day with 80 yards. De’Anthony Thomas scored his first touchdown for the Chiefs on a 17-yard reception, and has a chance to be a very special player for them despite his small size. But the Chiefs needed a bit more to come away with a win against a good team on the road, and it didn’t happen. Good, but not special, which can be said about almost everyone on this team on the offensive side of the ball except for Charles. The media might still be insinuating that Jim Harbaugh is on his way out. Who knows, maybe his entire locker room hates him to the bone.
But it doesn’t matter as long as they win games. With their second half scoring problem out of the way and like last season, Colin Kaepernick is learning from early season mistakes on how to be the most effective quarterback he can be, the 49ers seem to be out of the panic zone, at least until the next loss comes and everything ignites once more.