The 49ers clinched a playoff spot with a win against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night. It came out to be a wild Candlestick farewell party. Colin Kaepernick had a rough first half, but the 49ers’ signal-called and his offense played much better in the second half. Still, it took a defensive play of the year for the 49ers to seal the victory against the Falcons. NaVorro Bowman picked off Ryan’s pass in the redzone and returned INT 89 yards for a touchdown. The 49ers had eight drives and scored 27 points on offense, 3 TDs and 2 FGs.
1st drive: Own 32, 11:35 left in the 1st qrt, score tied 0-0
The 49ers opened their first drive with a Kaepernick-to-Boldin connection for six yards. Kaepernick’s next pass intended for M. Crabtree was incomplete thrown under pressure, but with the next play he found Boldin again good for 15 yards and a first down. F. Gore ran for no gain on first down play followed by two broken plays. On second down Kaepernick had to scramble, he gained eight yards, and on 3rd-and-2 he couldn’t escape the pressure and took a sack for a loss of two yards. The 49ers had to settle for a FG.
2nd drive: Own 8, 4:01 left in the 1st qrt, SF up 3-0
San Francisco started the second drive deep in its own territory. After F. Gore’s 9-yard run, Kaepernick kept the ball on read-option play and ran for two, enough for a first down. Later on when facing 3rd-and-7 Kaepernick connected with Boldin for 22 yards. Two consecutive penalties on the 49ers made it 2nd-and-18. This time Kaepernick found WR K. Osgood for 17, just short of a first down from 5-wide empty backfield formation. The next third down play was another negative play, Kaepernick took a sack for a loss of six yards and the 49ers had to punt from their own 47-yard line.
3rd drive: Own 20, 9:53 left in the 2nd qrt, Down 7-3
Kaepernick failed to complete a pass on this drive. He threw a perfect deep ball to V. McDonald who stumbled and couldn’t come up with a catch. On 3rd-and-13 Kaepernick was under pressure, had to scramble, but got only six yards and the 49ers had to punt again.
4th drive: Own 13, 2:25 left in the 2nd qrt, Down 7-3
Short pass from Kaepernick to V. McDonald fell incomplete. The second one to Gore was good for six which made it 3rd-and-4. With his third pass Kaepernick looked for Boldin, but he underthrew the pass and the 49ers had to punt.
5th drive: Own 17, 15:00 left in the 3rd qrt, Down 10-3
The 49ers faced 3rd-and-10 after F. Gore was stopped for no gain and after V. Davis dropped underthrown pass from Kaepernick. Kaepernick’s third down play was incomplete again, but defensive offside penalty made it 3rd-and-5 instead. Kaepernick completed third down pass to Crabtree who sprinted for 33 yards after the catch. Later on, those two connected for additional 19 yards which made it 1st-and-goal from ATL 10-yard line. Kaepernick threw a quick screen pass to Boldin behind line of scrimmage, well executed play resulted in a Boldin touchdown.
6th drive: Own 20, 9:29 left in the 3rd qrt, score tied 10-10
With a 11-yard pass completion to Crabtree, 11-yard run from F. Gore and a 9-yard pass to Boldin the 49ers quickly moved into Falcons’ territory. Gore then lost one yard and made it 3rd-and-2. Kaepernick completed a pass to Crabtree for 22 yards to keep the drive alive. After incomplete pass to Davis and a sack for -9 yards Kaepernick looked for Boldin on third and long. The pass was incomplete, but defensive pass interference allowed the 49ers to have another first down. With three run plays inside redzone the 49ers didn’t get enough yards for a first down and had to settle for the second FG of the game.
7th drive: Own 39, 2:12 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 13-10
The drive started with F. Gore run for six yards and continued with Kaepernick’s scramble for 22. Later on, the 49ers faced 3rd-and-1 and went with F. Gore who got three yards earning them another set of downs already inside the redzone. F. Gore got the call again and ran for five yards and set up Kaepernick’s touchdown run on a designed run play.
8th drive: Own 24, 8:34 left in the 4th qrt, SF up 20-17
Up by three late in the game the 49ers turned to their power running game. It was a 6-play drive, all the plays were run plays and the drive ended with 1-yard touchdown run by F. Gore. The 49ers took a 27-17 lead and it seemed that they did enough to earn another win, it turned out they needed a big help from the defense to put the game away.
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers had 54 offensive plays in eight drives and scored 3.4 points per drive. Kaepernick passed for one touchdown, ran for another and didn’t turn the ball over.
Kaepernick lined up under center again on over 60% of all offensive plays, but this time the 49ers used the pistol offense more than they did in recent weeks, with a 14.8% rate. They ran the ball from the pistol four times, two of those plays were read-option runs from Kaepernick who also added a scramble for 22 yards from the pistol.
After a bad first half performance, Kaepernick did play better in the second half, completing 7 of 10 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. He ended up with fourth 100+ passer rating game in the last five weeks. A lot of his passing yards came with yards after catch, part of the blame for that goes to poor tackling performance from Atlanta’s defense.
Kaepernick scrambled three times for 36 yards and was sacked also three times for a loss of 17 yards. He finished with 8.0 yards per pass play which is well above his career average (7.2). Kaepernick attempted only four passes on third downs, but most of his passing yards came on those critical downs, 91 to be exact which is 46% of the total passing yardage.
Colin Kaepernick was pressured on eight (29.6%) of his 27 total drop backs, based on my count. He attempted only four and completed just one pass for 22 yards when under pressure. The rest of the pressure plays resulted in sacks (3) and one scramble. The other two scramble plays weren’t the result of opponent’s pressure.
Kaepernick attempted 21 and completed 13 passes which leaves him with eight incompletions. Here’s a breakdown of his incompletions (click on the image to enlarge).
As I’ve already written in my last review, Kaepernick does seem to be a lot more confident player with WR Michael Crabtree back in the lineup. But at times he still leaves the pocket too early and finds himself in the situation when he has to make plays with his legs rather than with his arm. And when the going gets tough for the 49ers they turn to their power running game. They’ve done it many times this season. For example, Week 6 against the Cardinals up 22-20, they scored touchdown that sealed the victory, but in that drive the last eight plays were all runs. Or against the Seahawks in Week 14 down 16-17 when they needed to score, they engineered 18-play drive with the last eight plays all run plays. And they did it again on Monday Night against Atlanta in the last drive with all six plays on the ground, although it was the defense who had to seal the victory for San Francisco.
Next for the 49ers is a regular season finale in the Arizona desert against the Cardinals. Both teams, the 49ers and the Cardinals, still have a lot to play for so it will be another interesting battle between division rivals. The last time this two teams met was a Week 6 game in San Francisco. The 49ers have won that game 32-20, but late in the game it was still 22-20. It will be difficult for the 49ers to move the ball on offense against Arizona team ranked No.2 on defense (No. 3 against the pass) according to Football Outsiders, but hopefully they can finish the regular season with a win.