Believing Colin Kaepernick was the main reason for the success we saw from the San Francisco 49ers last season or in the opening week is the same kind of logic that leads those blaming him for the two consecutive losses, but ignores the true strengths of this team and its actual problem.
Kaepernick looked almost perfect against the Green Bay Packers, who showed what many teams are going to do against the 49ers or any other quarterback that runs – complete commitment to stopping the running game. Luckily for the 49ers, they caught a break or two from the officials, and the Packers don’t have a defense that’s good enough to handle both ground and aerial threats at the same time.
Kaepernick finished with 27-of-39 for 412 yards and three touchdown passes, while adding 22 more yards on the ground. Except for one 15-yard rush, the Packers did an excellent job in containing him from breaking outside the pockets.
The superlatives kept coming from every possible direction. His arm strength, his poise, his vision. Kaepernick is the new hybrid quarterback that will rule the NFL, the 49ers are the best team in the league. Everything looks so different with only two weeks of separation between euphoria and the hard life of trying to fix the wreckage of the last couple of losses.
The 29-3 defeat in Seattle wasn’t because Kaepernick is no longer a good quarterback. It was a bad gameplan from the 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh, who might be the man mostly credited with bringing the team back into the forefront of the NFL but also struggles to control his ego and intensity when his players sometimes need a calming figure on the sidelines. They were out-muscled by the Seahawks, as Kaepernick did run for 87 yards, but couldn’t find any open receivers against the excellent secondary the Seahawks have, finishing with 13-of-28, throwing three interceptions.
Kapernick was only intercepted once against the Colts (a 27-7 loss), but he was once again below 50% completions, and didn’t throw a single touchdown. Anquan Boldin was pretty much the only guy he could consistently find, and Boldin isn’t the kind of receiver who can be a number one option anymore. The interesting thing was Harbaugh calling the game like the Colts were running all over them.
The ground game worked very well for the 49ers, with Frank Gore 82 yards, but he got to carry the ball only 11 times. The 49ers moved to pass-only mode when they were only down by three and six points, playing into the hands of the Colts, who didn’t have the most impressive receiving crew to cover, while they struggled stopping the run when Gore went around the edge and to the right.
The 49ers have succeeded these last couple of years because of the best offensive line in the NFL, allowing to build a very strong running game that makes it easy for the quarterback to make simple, not-too-risky decisions. The defense, especially the front seven but also a relatively strong secondary, was just as important.
But the 49ers have allowed 414 yards so far in the first three games on the ground, 29th in the NFL. The balance that got them to where they are – from NFC Conference finalists to Super Bowl finalists and early season favorites is gone, and unless Colin Kaepernick gets Vernon Davis and slowly the rest of the injured receivers back, it’ll be futile expecting to see him perform as well as he did in week 1.