The San Francisco 49ers have won four consecutive games thanks to one big change they’ve made, which is stop relying on Colin Kaepernick and his overrated passing skills. Instead, they’ve turned him into a more athletic version of Alex Smith, while returning to basics: An excellent and patient defense against the run, while giving Frank Gore the ball as much as possible.
In the 31-17 win over the Tennessee Titans, which wasn’t even that close, Colin Kaepernick did run 11 times for 68 yards and score one touchdown, but he didn’t throw any touchdown passes, completing 13-of-21 for 199 yards, and not going too much to his successful connection with Vernon Davis. Kaepernick has completed 56.6% of his passes this season for 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. ESPN’s QBR system gave him a 99.0 for the game thanks to his running game, higher than any other quarterback has posted all season.
The 49ers, without Aldon Smith, aren’t trying to blitz as much as before, but it seems like their defense is better when it matters. The Titans did score 17 garbage time points and got 5.4 yards per carry, but they ran the ball only 13 times, and Jake Locker had a horrendous time in his return, sacked three times (twice by the fantastic Justin Smith) and threw one interception. The 49ers are relying on their linebackers and secondary to do the job, and against a team like the Titans it’s really not that much of a problem.
The 49ers called a design run on 36 of their 61 plays, the fourth straight game they have called a rush on more than 50% of their plays, helping them score 30+ points in each game. The 49ers ran the zone read 7 times for 42 yards Kaepernick keeping the ball 5 times for 36 yards and a touchdown. Coming into the game, Kaepernick had 9 zone-read rushes for 14 yards.
Is Harbaugh going to let Kaepernick start airing it out at some point, now that his team is back to a respectable 5-2, with no risk from the Arizona Cardinals or the St. Louis Rams? Probably not yet. There’s a bit more faith in him than there was in Alex Smith at this point last year, just before the big switch, but the 49ers’ head coach doesn’t believe Kaepernick can consistently work this group of receivers like he did on the first game of the season. Frank Gore in the mean time seems to be the man enjoying this change the most, running for 70 yards and two touchdowns, his first multiple touchdown game since 2009.
This was a big game, and we were treating it like the biggest game of the season. It was our next game. This was Game 7 for us, and we were treating it like Game 7 for us, and we were treating it like Game 7 of the World Series or Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Now the next game will be Game 8.
There’s no relenting in Harbaugh, who treats everything as the most serious thing in the world. However, his behavior on the sidelines doesn’t always seem like the most beneficial thing for his team, especially in closer games that don’t always go as planned, which the Niners have lost this season twice.