Preseason is a dangerous time that can make you get carried away, but the San Francisco 49ers look extremely ready and prepared for the new season by the way their first team was playing, including excellent passing (and no running) from Colin Kaepernick while the defense looked as dominant as it has been for the last couple of years.
Their third preseason game ended in a 34-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings, with Kaepernick finishing with 7-of-13, including completing his final six passes to end the first quarter with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Quinton Patton. He was one of four quarterbacks who played for the 49ers, but the only one who threw a touchdown pass.
This is the season in which Kaepernick steps out of the rookie-star frame of mind (even though it’ll be his third NFL season) and actually get the keys to the car right from the beginning of the season. The comparisons vary, and some make him out to be some sort of second Joe Montana coming, at least in terms of his importance to the 49ers’ future, and even his place in the evolution of the position in the league.
For now, it seems that the important thing is Kaepernick simply doing his best and improving as a passer. The 49ers looked devastating in their read option looks, even though he didn’t go off on any runs. The Vikings defense, already banged up quite a bit, couldn’t really keep up, although the 49ers scored points with special teams as well.
The tandem of Aldon and Justin Smith got past the Vikings’ offensive line more than once, with Christian Ponder sacked once (and Matt Cassel also going down once), but Smith also ended up picking a fumble by Ponder, while Justin Smith got himself a couple of impressive tackles for a loss.
The special teams touchdown came from Lavelle Hawkins, who made more headlines with his behavior than his 105-yards kickoff return. As he scored the touchdown, he was called for two unsportsmanlike penalties; one for pointing the ball at a Vikings player before reaching the end zone and another for removing his helmet in celebration. That wasn’t the end of him called for infringements.
He head-butted Linebacker Desmond Bishop after a 22-yard catch in the fourth quarter that was also followed by flipping the ball towards safety Mistral Raymond. He was once again called for unsportsmanlike behavior.
The 49ers weren’t perfect, but there was plenty to be pleased about. The running game (125 yards on 34 carries) behind the massive offensive line was at its usual capacity, even if Frank Gore hardly touched the ball (two carries, two yards) with Kendall Hunter doing slightly better with 3 carries and 13 yards. Kaepernick completed more passed than he actually attempted in the first preseason games. The Smith duo looked unstoppable for the short time they were on the field.
There’s nothing but Super Bowl on the mind of these players, and even though anything happening in preseason, bad & good, can be quite misleading, they seem to be one of the more ready teams in the NFL for the 2013 season.