Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers have won 4th straight game and improved to 5-2 with a win against the Titans on Sunday. Kaepernick was solid in the passing game, accurate with his passes most of the time. He was also very effective running with the ball, something that was missing in his game this season. Technically, the 49ers had 11 drives, but I didn’t include in the review the last drive which ended with kneel-downs to end the game. With 10 drives, the 49ers scored 24 points on offense.
1st drive: Own 9, 11:53 left in the 1st qrt, score tied 0-0
The 49ers started the game with impressive 6+ min. drive, but had to settle for a FG in the end. Kaepernick’s first pass of the drive was a bullet to V. Davis for 24 yards from pistol formation. His second pass was a check-down to B. Miller for 9 yards. 49ers’ next 3 plays were F. Gore’s runs. Facing 3rd and 6 Kaepernick ran on read-option for 10 yards and a 1st down. Later on the drive stalled on another 3rd down play, Kaepernick ran with the ball but lost 1 yard.
2nd drive: Own 4, 1:36 left in the 1st qrt, SF up 3-0
F. Gore lost 3 yards on 1st play of the 2nd drive and was almost tackled in the endzone for a safety. Next play was a 1-yard run by B. Miller. On 3rd-and-12 Kaepernick found A. Boldin for 7 yards, short of a 1st down. First 3-and-out and a punt.
3rd drive: Own 20, 11:28 left in the 2nd qrt, SF up 3-0
Kaepernick’s first pass intended for V. Davis was almost intercepted. He completed his next 2 passes, first to F. Gore for 5 and second to A. Boldin who made a diving catch for 25 yards. Following false start penalty, Kaepernick hit Boldin again who made one-handed catch for 11 yards. Kaepernick’s next pass was intercepted, but nullified because of defensive penalty. He ran for 1 yard on 2nd-and-8 and for 20 yards and a touchdown on 3rd-and-7.
4th drive: Opp 45, 5:09 left in the 2nd qrt, SF up 10-0
After he took a sack on 2nd down Kaepernick scrambled for 20 yards on 3rd-and-11. It was one of those Kaepernick’s scrambles not forced by opponents’ pressure. Short and effective drive ended with F. Gore’s 1-yard run for a touchdown after Kaepernick’s completion for 20 yards to V. McDonald.
5th drive: Own 21, 15:00 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 17-0
Kaepernick was perfect on this opening drive of the second half. He went 4-4 for 62 yards passing and he ran once for 6 yards. His last pass on this drive was a pass thrown behind LOS to V. Davis for 12 yards on 3rd-and-3. From TEN 4-yard line the 49ers ran 3 times, the result another TD run by F. Gore. The drive lasted 7:40 and the 49ers took a commanding 24-0 lead.
6th drive: Own 35, 5:42 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 24-0
That F. Gore’s TD were also the last points the 49ers scored on offense, this was the first out of 5 drives that ended with a punt. Kaepernick was looking for V. Davis on 3rd-and-1 play but couldn’t complete a short pass.
7th drive: Own 8, 3:26 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 24-0
Another drive that stalled very quickly. After a false start penalty the 49ers were facing 3rd-and-13 from own 34 yard line. Kaepernick was under pressure and had to leave the pocket, he scrambled for 8 yards, 5 yards short of a 1st down.
8th drive: Own 20, 12:23 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 24-3
The Titans put pressure on Kaepernick again, he was sacked on 2nd down. He underthrew a pass intended to V. Davis on 3rd down, if completed would’ve probably been short of a 1st down anyway. The 49ers had to punt.
9th drive: Own 44, 9:22 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 24-3
On this drive it looked as if Kaepernick completed a pass to F. Gore on 3rd-and-5 for 10 yards, but the Titans challenged the ruling on the field and the play was reversed. The pass was caught just inches out-of-bounds. Another punt for the 49ers.
10th drive: Own 20, 7:07 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 24-10
Up by 14 points late in the game San Francisco turned to its running game to chew up as much time as possible. They forced Tennessee to call 3 timeouts and SF punted the ball from own 34 yard line.
The 49ers had 61 offensive plays (3 kneel-down plays at the end of the game not included) and scored 2.4 points per drive. Kaepernick had 1 pass intercepted but the play was nullified because of a defensive penalty. For the 3rd time this season he finished the game without any turnovers.
Kaepernick was under center over 60% of all offensive snaps in the last 4 games. The 49ers did ran the pistol offense more against the Titans (15.6%) compared to previous 3 games but still at much lower rate compared to last year’s playoffs (49.4%).
Out of 61 offensive plays 25 were designed pass plays: 21 pass attempts, 2 scrambles and 2 plays resulted in a sack. Kaepernick was playing against top 10 pass defense in the league (before the game the Titans were ranked 8th in pass defense according to Football Outsiders), but made plays, connecting as usual with his 2 favorite targets – A. Boldin & V. Davis. He did finish with zero touchdown passes, but was good on 3rd downs as we will see later on.
With 2 sacks on Sunday the total number increased to 15 this season, only 4 shy of the Kaepernick’s total number of all last season (playoffs included) – again a reminder that the total is from Week 10 2012 on, when Kaepernick took over the job from A. Smith. Kaepernick did gain 9 yards per pass play against Tennessee – second best mark this season.
Both Kaepernick’s scrambles came on 3rd down, he was pressured 2 times out of 14 plays on 3rd downs. On average, 49ers had 6 yards to go on 3rd down. Here’s a breakdown of all Kaepernick’s 3rd/4th down plays (click on image to enlarge):
Colin Kaepernick was pressured only 4 times out of total 25 dropbacks (16.0%) against the Titans. He attempted only 1 pass under duress which was caught out-of-bounds, originally ruled as a catch. The other 3 pressure plays were resulted in 2 sacks and 1 scramble for 8 yards.
Kaepernick completed 13 of 21 passes. Here’s a breakdown of his 8 incompletions.
Again, most of his incompletions were off-target passes, Kaepernick was lucky on couple of plays, he was intercepted once but thanks to defensive penalty that play was nullified, on other occasion his deep pass to V. Davis could have also been intercepted.
This season, Kaepernick didn’t run with the ball as much as he did in the end of last season, but was a lot more active on Sunday against the Titans. Besides 2 scrambles he also ran 6 times on designed run plays (not counting 3 kneel-down plays at the end of the game), 5 of those were read-option runs, 1 was naked bootleg.
Although the 49ers haven’t run the pistol offense a lot against the Titans it was clear that they wanted to use Colin Kaepernick as a runner more than they did in any other game this season. Kaepernick was effective running on read-option plays, he ran 5 times for 36 yards (7.2 yards per run) and a TD.
As far as his passing game is concerned, nothing’s really changed from previous few weeks. He was solid but wasn’t spectacular as he continued to look for his 2 favorite targets, A. Boldin and V. Davis. I’d like to see Kaepernick spread the ball more to his other receivers, but for that we will probably have to wait for Manningham and Crabtree to return from injuries.
The 49ers extended their road trip further East and have already landed in London where they will play against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a 2013 NFL International Series game. It will be second time for the 49ers to play in London, but first time for Colin Kaepernick who will try to lead his team to 5th consecutive win.