The 49ers advanced to 10-4 with a win against Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but haven’t yet secured a playoff spot. Colin Kaepernick had one of the best, if not the best, performance this season against a solid Tampa Bay defense (sixth ranked defense in the NFL according to Football Outsiders). His confidence grew each week since the return of WR Michael Crabtree and it showed again on Sunday. Technically, the 49ers had 10 drives on offense, not counting two drives, one drive consisting of one run play at the end of the half and the last drive with three kneel-down plays to end the game with QB C. McCoy in the game. With 10 drives the 49ers scored 26 points on offense, 2 TD and 4 FGs. San Francisco won the battle of field position and had average starting field position at their own 36-yard line (again, not counting the two drives).
1st drive: Own 38, 14:01 left in the 1st qrt, score tied 0-0
The 49ers opened the game with a TD drive that took almost seven minutes off the clock. Gore ripped off 13-yard run on the first play. Kaepernick had to scramble twice on the drive, one of the two scrambles came on third down play good for another first down. With short passes and runs from F. Gore and K. Hunter, the 49ers gradually moved up the field and had 1st-and-goal from TB 4-yard line. Gore was stopped for no gain on first down. Kaepernick was forced to leave the pocket on second down, he patiently waited for Crabtree to get open, extended the play under pressure and found Crabtree in the end zone for a TD.
2nd drive: Own 26, 5:30 left in the 1st qrt, SF up 7-0
With pressure coming Kaepernick had to take a sack to start the 49ers’ second drive of the game and lost five yards. On second drop back he connected with TE G. Celek for eight yards. Completion to V. Davis for five yards on 3rd-and-7 wasn’t enough for a first down. Punt time for the 49ers.
3rd drive: Own 15, 0:35 left in the 1st qrt, SF up 7-0
This drive started with K. Hunter’s run for 15 yards and Kaepernick’s completion to M. Crabtree for 12 yards. Later on, Kaepernick had to scramble and got away with six yards, he slided just short of a first down. F. Gore then lost one yard on 3rd-and-1 and the 49ers had to punt again.
4th drive: Own 44, 10:57 left in the 2nd qrt, SF up 7-0
A mixture of short passes and F. Gore runs helped the 49ers advance to the TB 46 yard line. Facing 3rd-and-15 Kaepernick made great effort again to extend the play under pressure, he connected with Boldin for 25 yards and a first down. But on another third down play later on, Kaepernick couldn’t avoid the sack and the 49ers were forced to kick a FG.
5th drive: Own 19, 3:39 left in the 2nd qrt, SF up 10-0
After F. Gore lost one yard on first play, Kaepernick and Crabtree connected for 12 to make it 1st-and-10. With the next play the 49ers ran again, Gore got three yards. Kaepernick completed next two passes to V. Davis, first short one good for 15 yards, the second one a 52-yard bomb for a touchdown.
6th drive: Own 27, 15:00 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 17-7
Kaepernick’s pass intended for A. Boldin was incomplete to start the second half. RB L.M. James then ran for 21 yards on run play from shotgun formation. Kaepernick was intercepted on the next play on tipped ball intended for V. Davis. LB L. David returned it to the end zone, but the play was nullified due to defensive offside penalty. Two more pass plays with two incompletions force the 49ers to punt.
7th drive: Opp 44, 10:50 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 17-7
The drive started with F. Gore run for six yards from TB 44-yard line. Kaepernick then looked for A. Boldin on the next two plays, first was tipped at the LOS and incomplete, the second one good for seven yards and a first down was thrown behind WR, but Boldin made a great one-handed catch. Later on, false start penalty on V. Davis made it 3rd-and-14, Kaepernick was under pressure and looked for Boldin again, but the pass was incomplete as Boldin couldn’t hold onto the ball, P. Dawson kick was good and the 49ers took a 20-7 lead.
8th drive: Own 37, 6:20 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 20-7
Kaepernick found A. Boldin for 11 yards with short pass on a first down play which put the ball on SF 48-yard line. Kaepernick’s next pass was a deep ball intended to V. Davis again. Davis was open but the ball was a bit off-target. F. Gore with one yard on run play and short pass to M. Manningham for just two yards on third down wasn’t enough for another set of downs. The 49ers had to punt from their own 49-yard line.
9th drive: Own 20, 14:54 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 20-14
The 49ers took 10:27 off the clock and their longest drive of the season, time-wise, ended with another field goal to make it 23-14. It started with two F. Gore runs for 11 yards. Kaepernick then overthrew deep pass to open M. Crabtree on 1st-and-10 play, Crabtree committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty which made it 1st-and-20. After K. Hunter got two yards, Kaepernick completed two passes, first to B. Miller. The second one to M. Crabtree who got enough yards for another first down, but it was Kaepernick again with his elusiveness who managed to deliver the ball under pressure. Later on, with three more run plays the 49ers entered Buccaneers’ territory. On first down F. Gore got only one yard, on second down Kaepernick connected with Crabtree for three yards and scrambled for 10 yards on crucial third down play. With 1st-and-10 already inside redzone Kaepernick went with B. Miller for 10 yards. Miller fumbled the ball out-of-bounds and was injured on the play. On 1st-and-goal the 49ers tried to surprise the Bucs, but Boldin was stopped for no gain on run play. After F. Gore ran for two on second down, Kaepernick completed short pass for two yards to V. Davis, not enough for a first down. The 49ers were forced to kick a FG.
10th drive: Opp 26, 3:44 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 30-14
With a big lead late in the game and with great field position the 49ers ran the ball three more times to set up fourth P. Dawson’s field goal.
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers had 67 offensive plays in 10 drives (one run play at the end of the half and three kneel-down plays by C. McCoy to end the game not included) and scored 2.6 points per drive. Kaepernick passed for two touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over.
The 49ers continued to operate on offense with Kaepernick under center on majority of plays, against the Buccaneers it was almost 70% of all offensive snaps, similar to Week 14 against the Seahawks. The 49ers used the pistol offense on even fewer times in Week 15, they’ve run only two plays from the pistol, both of them pass plays.
Kaepernick scrambled four times for 42 yards and was sacked twice for a loss of 14 yards. He finished with 6.6 yards per pass play which is below his career average, but he made some great plays especially on third downs.
Kaepernick attempted nine passes on third downs. He completed seven of them for 60 yards. He also scrambled two times on third downs and had to take one sack. With his 12 third down plays he manage to get first down on six of them. Here’s a breakdown of all Kaepernick’s third down plays:
Colin Kaepernick was pressured on 11 (31.4%) of his 35 total drop backs, based on my count. He attempted six and completed five passes for 60 yards and a TD when under pressure. The rest of the pressure plays resulted in sacks (2) and scrambles (3). One of his scramble plays wasn’t the result of opponent’s pressure.
Kaepernick attempted 29 and completed 19 passes which leaves him with 10 incompletions. One interesting note, in all of 2012 (regular season and playoffs) Kaepernick never had his pass batted down/deflected at the line of scrimmage, he already has 11 of those in 2013. Here’s a breakdown of his incompletions (click on the image to enlarge).
Colin Kaepernick never ran on a designed run play against Tampa Bay. The fourth time that has happened this season, he didn’t run on designed play also in Week 4 (@ Rams), Week 5 (vs Texans) and Week 11 (@ Saints). He only ran 26 times on designed run plays so far this season.
Kaepernick has played better recently and it came against better defenses in the NFL. His better performance coincides with the return of WR Michael Crabtree. Kaepernick seems to be more confident player with him back in the lineup. Without Crabtree he would have probably intentionally thrown away a few passes on Sunday when he was under duress. But he trusts Crabtree that he’ll get open and with him back and with Boldin he was able to complete some key passes facing heavy pressure. Vernon Davis also remains his trust worthy receiver, but more as a deep threat and not someone he would go to on third down. Unfortunately, FB B. Miller got injured and is lost for the season, so the 49ers will have to adjust their offensive personnel going forward. The 49ers are one of the rare NFL teams who use FB as much and it will be interesting to see with what kind of answer to a newly situation they’ll come up with on offense.
Next for the 49ers is a MNF game at home against the Atlanta Falcons. It will be 49ers’ last game at Candlestick and San Francisco 49ers would like to get one final win at their memorable stadium.