The 49ers earned an important win against division rival at Candlestick park on Sunday. Colin Kaepernick got his offensive weapon back in the lineup. WR Michael Crabtree played in his first game after injury, was targeted only four times, but he did help open up the passing game in which Kaepernick’s favorite targets A. Boldin and V. Davis excelled once again. Technically, the 49ers had 10 drives on offense, not counting two drives consisting each of only one play (run play at the end of the half and kneel down play to end the game). With 10 drives the 49ers scored 23 points on offense, 2 TDs and 3 FGs. On average, starting field position for San Francisco was its own 32-yard line.
1st drive: Own 33, 12:51 left in the 1st qrt, score tied 0-0
With his first pass incomplete to A. Boldin on first down, Kaepernick looked Boldin’s way again on third down, this time he connected with Boldin for 12 yards for a third down. Facing 1st-and-15 after penalty on M.Crabtree, Kaepernick scrambled for a first time, he got eight yards. Later on Kaepernick hit wide open V. Davis for 23 yards to move into the redzone. After two F. Gore runs for only two yards, Kaepernick couldn’t avoid the pressure on third down and took a sack. SF was forced to kick a field goal.
2nd drive: Own 28, 5:49 left in the 1st qrt, SF up 3-0
This was the ‘penalty’ drive as both teams combined committed four penalties. Kaepernick and Davis connected again for 20 yards, 17 of those came after the catch. Kaepernick felt the pressure again on the next play and had to take a sack for a loss of nine yards. The 49ers got eight yards back when Kaepernick completed his first pass to M. Crabtree after a long time. Defensive holding on third down gave SF another set of downs. Later on, Kaepernick scrambled twice, first time for eight yards, the second time for 14, but the second play was nullified because of offensive holding penalty. F. Gore ran for five yards on 1st-and-20, but the next play resulted in another sack. With 3rd-and-long the 49ers ran the ball to set up another field goal.
3rd drive: Own 28, 12:15 left in the 2nd qrt, SF up 6-0
With first two incomplete passes (first batted down at LOS, second off-target), Kaepernick connected with, who else, A. Boldin for 21 yards on 3rd-and-10. On the next play, Kaepernick ran on read-option play for six yards, he then hit A. Boldin on consecutive plays, both times for seven yards. RB A. Dixon lost two yards and it was 3rd-and-5. Kaepernick completed pass to Boldin, this time only for four yards, but another penalty on St. Louis gave the 49ers first down. What followed were two negative plays, first one a short pass to B. Miller for -1, the second a sack for -4 yards. Facing 3rd-and-15 from STL 19-yard line Kaepernick went with Boldin again for 16 yards and a first down. F. Gore then ran for three yards and a touchdown.
4th drive: Own 20, 15:00 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 13-3
The 49ers opened the second half with 3-and-out series. F. Gore lost two yards and an incomplete pass intended for Boldin made it 3rd-and-12. With a short pass to Boldin for six yards the 49ers were forced to punt for the first time.
5th drive: Own 22, 8:56 left in the 3nd qrt, SF up 13-6
Kaepernick opened the drive with a short pass to B. Miller for 21 yards with 15 of those yards after the catch and followed it with a deep pass to V. Davis for 22 yards. With a combination of runs and short passes to A. Boldin the 49ers moved inside STL 10 yard line. False start penalty on A. Davis made it 3rd-and-9. Kaepernick passed the ball short to F. Gore underneath for four yards. Another field goal for San Francisco.
6th drive: Own 17, 1:55 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 16-6
The highlight of this drive was a 3rd-and-7 play in which M. Crabtree ran for 42 yards after the catch. That was a 60 yards pass from Kaepernick to Crabtree that put the ball on STL 20 yard line. Moments later F. Gore ran for seven yards but fumbled the ball in the end, recovered by STL.
7th drive: Opp 17, 14:41 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 16-6
The Rams decided to fake a punt, but the 49ers were ready for it. The Rams turned the ball on downs, gave the 49ers the ball on STL 17-yard line. With only one play the 49ers were in the end zone, Kaepernick’s 17-yard pass to V. Davis made it 22-6.
8th drive: Own 30, 13:03 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 23-6
Incomplete pass to M. Crabtree and F. Gore run for no gain made it 3rd-and-10. With 12:22 left to play in the fourth quarter, Kaepernick attempted his last pass of the game, 3-yard pass to F. Gore, punt time again.
9th drive: Own 15, 6:38 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 23-6
Up by 17 late in the game, the 49ers were in ‘run-down-the-clock’ mode. Kaepernick handed the ball to A. Dixon four times. SF forced STL to take a timeout and punted the ball with 4:29 left in the game.
10th drive: Own 49, 3:30 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 23-6
In attempt to further run down the clock Kaepernick handed the ball three more times to his running backs.
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers had 60 offensive plays (one run play to end the half and kneel down by Kaepernick to end the game excluded) and scored 2.3 points per drive. Kaepernick passed for 1 TD and didn’t turned the ball over.
For the most part of 2013 the 49ers operated on offense with Kaepernick under center on majority of plays. The Rams game on Sunday was no different, Kaepernick lined up under center on almost 60% of all offensive snaps, similar to the Redskins game. The 49ers used the pistol offense on 11 snaps and ran from that formation only 3 times, Kaepernick ran for six yards on one of those run plays.
Kaepernick built on his Washington performance and posted another 100+ passer rating against the Rams. The Rams have been better at defending the run lately, so it was somewhat expected that the 49ers will find success against the Rams through the air. Kaepernick completed over 67% of his pass attempts and passed for 275 yards and one touchdown. It will be much more difficult to have that kind of success against the Seahawks next Sunday, but having Crabtree back definitely helps.
Kaepernick exploited the Rams’ secondary with short passes to his receivers who generated lots of YAC. Kaepernick finished with 8.0 yards per pass play and was sacked four times. Injuries on the left side of O-line is one of the reason for that, but at least on one sack play he could’ve got rid of the ball and avoided the sack.
Kaepernick was more than successful on 3rd downs. He went 8 of 8 for 126 yards and managed to get another set of downs four times. Here’s a breakdown of all Kaepernick’s third down plays not only his pass attempts:
Colin Kaepernick was pressured on seven (20.6%) of his 34 total drop backs. He attempted three and completed two passes when under pressure. The rest of pressure plays resulted in sacks (4). Kaepernick also scrambled twice, but those two plays weren’t the result of opponent’s pressure.
Kaepernick attempted 28 and completed 19 passes, which leaves him with nine incompletions. One of his nine incompletions was a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage, that was already his eight batted/deflected pass this season compared to zero in 2012 regular season and playoffs.
Since back-to-back losses against the Panthers and the Saints the 49ers did play better on offense. But it has to be said that it came against teams that are not as good as Carolina and New Orleans. The 49ers continue to try to find favorable matchups with pre-snap motions and shifts between different formations which helps Kaepernick in the passing game. When healthy, V. Davis presents big problems for opposing teams and Michael Crabtree’s return from injury should also boost 49ers’ passing attack. Kaepernick needs to improve and keep his eyes downfield even if he feels the pressure is coming to him. On the other hand, fresh injuries on offensive line could impact 49ers’ game on offense in the future just as it did early on in the game against the Rams, not only in passing but also in the running game.
Next for the 49ers is a game against the 11-1 Seattle Seahawks who will visit San Francisco after a big win against the Saints on Monday Night. The last time this two teams met was a Week 2 SNF game in Seattle. The 49ers lost that game 29-3, but early in the fourth quarter it was still 12-3 as the defense kept the team in the game. San Francisco and Colin Kaepernick in particular will have to play better this time around especially in the red zone in order to have a chance against the Seahawks who are clearly No. 1 team in the NFL at the moment.