The 49ers bounced back with a win on Thursday Night against division rival St. Louis Rams. It was another slow start for the 49ers led by Colin Kaepernick. In Kaepernick’s 14 starts (playoffs included) the 49ers ended with a punt on their opening drive 10 times, 9 of those were 3 & outs. Even without some key players on defense that unit again kept the team in the game early on when offensive unit couldn’t move the ball in the 1st quarter. The 49ers technically had 16 drives on offense, but I count only 15 (drive with fair catch kick to end the half excluded). They scored 5 touchdowns and punted the ball 7 times. On average, they’ve started their drives on own 28 yard line.
1st drive: Own 34, 11:41 left in the 1st qrt, score tied 0-0
Kaepernick started the first drive rolling to his right after a fake and found B. Miller for 11 yards. On his second drop back he was pressured and had to throw on the move, the pass was incomplete. F. Gore and K. Hunter ran with the ball on 2nd and 3rd down and both lost yards on the play. It was 4th and 13, P. Dawson missed 53-yard field goal attempt.
2nd drive: Own 20, 7:09 left in the 1st qrt, SF down 3-0
Kaepernick couldn’t avoid the pressure to start the second drive and took a sack and lost 8 yards. He had FB B. Miller open, with a quick release he could have hit Miller for nice gain but held the ball too long and eventually took a sack. On the next play, defensive pass interference on A. Boldin gave the 49ers automatic first down. With two run plays the 49ers gained only 3 yards which set up a long 3rd down. With empty backfield Kaepernick completed a short pass to Q. Patton. He caught the ball 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage and could only get back to the line for 0 yards on the play. The 49ers had to punt.
3rd drive: Own 42, 1:11 left in the 1st qrt, SD down 3-0
After a 4 yard gain from F. Gore run, Kaepernick again rolled to his right, completed a pass to A. Boldin, but the play was nullified because of offensive pass interference. On the next play, Kaepernick escaped the pressure and almost completed a pass to A. Boldin who dropped the ball, the drop was forced by CB J. Jenkins. Kaepernick’s next deep pass on 3rd and 16, intended for V. Davis, was almost intercepted. The 49ers had to punt again.
4th drive: Own 20, 9:17 left in the 2nd qrt, SF down 3-0
F. Gore ran for 27 yards on 1st down, but LaMichael James lost 1 and gained only 1 back on the next 2 run plays. It was 3rd and 10 and Kaepernick completed his first deep ball of the game to A. Boldin for 42 yards. Later on, after offensive holding penalty, the 49ers faced another 3rd and long, this time 3rd and 19. Boldin caught Kaepernick’s pass at STL 11 yard line and made a great effort to get in the endzone for 49ers’ first TD of the game.
5th drive: Own 20, 3:56 left in the 2nd qrt, SF up 7-3
D. Whitner intercepted Bradford’s pass in the endzone which gave the offense the ball at own 20 yard line. F. Gore was again big part of the offense on this drive, he ran for 17 more yards on a 2nd and 3 play. Kaepernick completed a pass for 20 yards to A. Boldin, but the play was later challenged and reversed. After a 9 yard completion to K. Hunter, the 49ers faced 3rd and 1. It looked like F. Gore did enough to get the first down, but the play was again challenged and reversed. The 49ers went for it on 4th and 1 from STL 34 yard line. This time F. Gore ran through Rams’ defense for a 34 yard TD.
6th drive: Own 20, 15:00 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 14-3
Kaepernick opened the second half with another designed play which gave him time and room to throw as he was rolling to his right. He connected with B. Miller for 9 yards. On 2nd and 1, F. Gore ran for 13 yards but fumbled the ball in the end. The fumble was recovered by St. Louis Rams. It was 49ers’ first turnover of the game.
7th drive: Own 12, 13:52 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 14-3
This was 49ers’ longest drive of the game, 11 plays for 88 yards and a TD, which took more than 5 min of the clock. Kaepernick rolled to his right 3 times on this drive and was again almost intercepted on 2nd and 9 play when he was looking for K. Williams deep down the middle. On 3rd and 9 he found J. Baldwin for 15 yards. Kaepernick scrambled for a first down on 2 and 6 play. The 49ers advanced down to STL 12 yard line and faced 3rd and 2. Kaepernick send A. Boldin in motion and looked to him first after the snap, but progressed to V. Davis who beat the coverage and caught accurate pass from Kaepernick for a touchdown.
8th drive: Own 15, 7:05 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 21-3
This was first in the series of four 3 & out drives from the 49ers. On second down Kaepernick rolled to his right again but couldn’t complete a pass to TE V. McDonald. On 3rd down he found A. Boldin for 5 yards, but it wasn’t enough for a first down.
9th drive: Own 22, 4:20 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 21-3
K. Hunter lost 2 and F. Gore gained 2 yards and the 49ers were in another 3rd and long situation. Kaepernick threw a screen pass behind F. Gore who couldn’t catch the ball. It was second straight 3 & out for the 49ers.
10th drive: Own 4, 1:51 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 21-3
After a 1-yard run from F. Gore, Kaepernick rolled to his right again and scrambled for 4 yards. He had V. Davis open, but didn’t pull the trigger. On 3rd and 5 he found J. Baldwin for 4 yards, one yard short of a first down. Another 3 & out, another punt.
11th drive: Own 29, 13:25 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 21-3
The last drive in the series of 3 & outs began with 7 yard run from F. Gore. After a play-action fake Kaepernick didn’t find open receivers and had to take a sack. Kaepernick was hit as he threw on 3rd down pass to F. Gore, the ball was off-target and the 49ers had to punt.
12th drive: Opp 3, 11:03 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 21-3
LB N. Bowman forced fumble recovered by the 49ers gave the offense an excellent field position. A. Dixon ran for a touchdown on 2nd and goal from STL 1 yard line.
13th drive: Own 15, 9:00 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 28-3
In attempt to run down the clock the 49ers ran with the ball the rest of the way. After they got a first down from 3 runs in this drive, Kaepernick fumbled the ball when he was handing it off to his running back, recovered by St. Louis Rams. It was 2nd turnover of the game for the 49ers.
14th drive: Opp 42, 5:44 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 28-11
The 49ers continued to run with the ball, it was all K. Hunter on this drive as he ran 4 times on this drive, on 3rd and 13 he ran 29 yards for a touchdown.
15th drive: Own 13, 3:00 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 35-11
Kaepernick opened the drive with a handoff to K. Hunter and left the game after the play. He dropped back to pass 27 times and handed/tossed the ball to his running backs 35 times in this game. QB Colt McCoy entered the game and handed off the ball twice more before another punt by the 49ers.
A better performance compared to the Week 3 game for the 49ers as they scored 35 points from 15 drives against the Rams in a TNF game. This is Colin Kaepernick’s review so I reviewed his 62 plays on offense (fair catch kick and two snaps from Colt McCoy at the end of the game not included). Kaepernick didn’t throw an INT but is officially responsible for aborted snap/dropped handoff fumble. It was his 7th turnover for the season, already more than in whole 2012 season with playoffs included.
With the return of its power running game, San Francisco mainly operated from under center. The 49ers attacked the Rams on season high 62.9% from formations with Colin Kaepernick under center. The 49ers were up 18 points early in the 4th quarter and there was no need to play catch up, they were in shotgun on only 27.4% and ran the pistol only 9.7% of all plays, similar to 2012 regular season.
Colin Kaepernick had Alex-Smith-like passing stats on Thursday Night. He attempted 23 passes with 6.0 yards per pass play and 7.4% sack rate. The 49ers tried best to put him in comfortable situations, with plays designed for him to roll to his right a lot.
Kaepernick did play good enough to beat the Rams, especially on 3rd downs. He attempted 10 passes and completed 7 of them for 98 yards, 2 TD with 0 INT and 140.8 passer rating on 3rd down plays.
Colin Kaepernick was pressured 6 times out of total 27 dropbacks (22.2%) against the Rams, 2 of those 6 pressure plays resulted in a sack, he scrambled once because of the pressure provided by the Rams and attempted 3 passes and completed 1 for 9 yards as we can see from the table above. With already mentioned roll out plays and Kaepernick’s ability to avoid the pressure he was able to avoid the pressure on majority of pass plays and didn’t feel the pressure as much as he did in 2 games against the Rams last year.
Kaepernick attempted a total of 23 passes and completed 15 of them. Here’s a breakdown of his 8 incompletions. He was off-target 4 times, had 2 passes dropped and 2 defended.
The 49ers were in a tough spot. After 2 back-to-back losses they hit the road on a short week to play division rival who played them extremely hard in the last season. They managed to come up with a much-needed win despite early struggles from offensive unit who still misses starting wide receivers. Colin Kaepernick did better compared to his previous two games, but he wasn’t ask to do a lot as San Francisco returned to its power running game. The 49ers specifically designed plays for Colin Kaepernick to put him in at most comfortable spot to throw the ball to his receivers. He did miss a few plays again, but those weren’t costly as 49ers defense played lights out throughout the whole game. They limit the Rams to just 3 points until garbage time and forced some key turnovers. Kaepernick played great on key 3rd down plays and was 2 for 2 and 2 TDs in the redzone. As usual, his elusiveness and speed helped him avoid as much pressure as possible. It also helped Kaepernick to have V. Davis back in the lineup, who was targeted 4 times and caught only 2 passes, but he helps other receivers to get open.
The 49ers can now enjoy mini bye week, at least the defense, on offense they still have lots of work to do before Week 5 game on SNF at home against the Texans.