2013 Colin Kaepernick – Championship game review

The 49ers’ season ended with a loss against Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game. San Francisco seemed to have the game under control for the most part, but three fourth quarter turnovers committed by Colin Kaepernick were the reason that the 49ers won’t be back in the Super Bowl.
The 49ers had a total of 10 drives (the drive at the end of the first half with one kneel down play not included) and scored 17 points on offense, 2 TDs and 1 FG.

1st drive: Opp 15, 14:50 left in the 1st qrt, score tied 0-0
The 49ers received a gift from their defense, A. Smith sacked R. Wilson, forced and recovered a fumble on SEA 15-yard line. F. Gore got two yards on the ground on the first play. Kaepernick then connected with M. Crabtree for just two yards. Kaepernick ran on designed QB draw run for four yards, two yards short of first down. The 49ers were forced to kick a FG.

2nd drive: Own 19, 10:40 left in the 1st qrt, SF up 3-0
The 49ers opened their second drive with another F. Gore run, Gore gained only a yard on the play. Kaepernick was under pressure on the next play, but was able to complete a pass to TE V. McDonald for 13 yards. Kaepernick ran for 17 yards on the next designed run, but F. Gore lost a yard on read-option play. Kaepernick scrambled and gained eight yards to set up 3rd-and-3 from SEA 43. With another QB draw play Kaepernick got two yards and was just short of first down. False start penalty on V. Davis made it 4th-and-6 instead of 4th-and-1 and the 49ers had to punt.

3rd drive: Own 14, 14:49 left in the 2nd qrt, SF up 3-0
A. Boldin dropped a pass on first play of this drive. Facing 3rd-and-9 Kaepernick looked for M. Crabtree who was held on the play, defensive holding called on CB Sherman made it 1st-and-10. The 49ers focused on ground game the rest of the way on this drive. On the only two dropbacks Kaepernick had to scramble and got 12 and 58 yards. With 58-yard scramble Kaepernick moved the offense all the way to the SEA 10-yard line. Gore ran for two and seven yards. The 49ers were facing 3rd-and-1 from SEA 1. RB A. Dixon was stopped on first try, but on 4th-and-1 he leaped over the defense to score a touchdown.

4th drive: Own 20, 5:47 left in the 2nd qrt, SF up 10-3
Kaepernick’s pass to A. Boldin was again a dropped pass. On second down Kaepernick ran on read-option run and lost two yards. On 3rd-and-12 Kaepernick completed a short pass to Q. Patton for just two yards, the first 3-and-out for the 49ers.

5th drive: Own 21, 15:00 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 10-3
F. Gore lost one yard on the first play of the second half. Kaepernick then completed back-to-back passes to Boldin and Crabtree for six and 12 yards. His next pass intended for M. Crabtree was overthrown and incomplete. On second down Gore almost fumbled the ball and lost six yards. Next third down play ended with incomplete pass intended for F. Gore. The 49ers had to punt again.

6th drive: Own 17, 9:51 left in the 3rd qrt, score tied 10-10
After Gore and Hunter gained two and nine yards on the ground, Kaepernick threw a great pass to Crabtree for 22 yards. On the next play the 49ers gained another 22 yards, this time it was QB Kaepernick with bootleg run. The 49ers were lucky on the next play, Kaepernick was sacked and fumbled the ball, but J. Goodwin picked up the loose ball and ended up with two positive yards. Next was one of the best plays from Kaepernick all season, he was under pressure, but kept eyes down field looking for A. Boldin, his laser-like pass was perfect, just over defender and into the hands of A. Boldin for 26-yard TD.

7th drive: Own 20, 3:55 left in the 3rd qrt, SF up 17-13
F. Gore was stopped for no gain on the first play of this drive. Kaepernick then looked for A. Boldin who dropped another ball. On third down the Seahawks brought pressure and Kaepernick had no other choice, but to throw the ball away. Second 3-and-out for the 49ers. 

8th drive: Own 11, 13:44 left in the 4th qrt, SF down 20-17
Things started to fall apart for the 49ers’ who were down for the first time in this game. Kaepernick’s pass intended to A. Boldin was well defended and incomplete. He then complete his short pass to V. Davis for five yards. On 3rd-and-5 Kaepernick looked for Boldin again, the two connected for nine yards. Later on, Kaepernick scrambled for six yards. With 3rd-and-1 the 49ers were penalized for delay of game and instead of just one yard they had to gain six for another first down. Kaepernick was sacked for the second time on the play and lost fumble as he was trying to avoid the pressure.

9th drive: Own 15, 8:18 left in the 4th qrt, SF down 20-17
Things got even worst on 49ers’ next possession. Hunter started this drive with 11-yard run from the shotgun. Kaepernick made a bad decision and threw a pass to Boldin, the pass was late, thrown directly into the hands of S K. Chancellor.

10th drive: Own 22, 3:37 left in the 4th qrt, SF down 23-17
The 49ers went with RB James on the first play of this drive, he was stopped for no gain. Kaepernick and the 49ers moved the ball well and were in good position with enough time and two time-outs remaining. Facing 4th-and-2 Kaepernick found F. Gore for 17 yards. On 3rd-and-2 he connected with M. Crabtree for 16 yards followed by a completion to V. Davis for 11 yards which put the ball on SEA 18-yard line. Kaepernick slightly underthrew a deep pass on the next play with tight coverage from CB Sherman who made a great play, broke up a pass deep in the end zone which allowed LB M. Smith to come up with game-ending INT.

Drive stats
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers had 53 offensive plays (kneel down play not included) in 10 drives and scored 1.7 points per drive. The 49ers lost the battle of field position this time as their average starting field position was own 24-yard line. Kaepernick connected with A. Boldin for one touchdown, but he turned the ball over three times (two interceptions, one lost fumble). Here are overall drive stats for the game against the Seahawks.

Championship-drive statsOffensive formations
On Sunday Kaepernick lined up under center on only 48.1%, he was in the shotgun a lot more than he was in the recent games (40.7%) and ran the offense from the pistol on just five plays or 9.3% of all offensive plays, four of them were run plays, one of those was Kaepernick’s read-option run for -2 yards.

Championship-formationsPass plays
Out of 53 offensive plays 29 were designed pass plays: 24 pass attempts, three scrambles and two play resulted in a sack.

Championship-passingKaepernick attempted only five passes in the first half of the NFC Championship game, he completed three of those for just 17 yards, but when the 49ers lost the lead in the beginning of the fourth quarter the 49ers had to pass more. In the last drive only, Kaepernick attempted seven passes and gained 56 passing yards, which is 36.6% of his total passing yards, but against the Seahawks he wasn’t as fortunate as he was in the first two playoffs games when his risky passes weren’t, but could have been intercepted. The 49ers’ last two drives ended with interceptions and that’s how their season ended. Kaepernick didn’t make enough plays through the air against the best pass defense in the NFL.

Championship-YPPBesides 24 pass attempts for 153 yards, Kaepernick also scrambled three times for 78 yards and was sacked twice, both times Kaepernick fumbled, on the first sack the offense recovered, but not on the second sack fumble. With his great scrambling ability Kaepernick finished with 7.8 yards per pass play which is much higher average compared to two regular season games the 49ers played against Seattle (4.9 in Week 2 & 5.0 in Week 14). Kaepernick was also more effective on 3rd/4th downs as he was in the regular season against the same opponent. He attempted eight passes and completed five of them for 56 yards.

Championship-3rd 4th downKaepernick also ran twice on designed run play on third downs and was sacked once.  Here’s a breakdown of all Kaepernick’s third down plays:

Championship-3rd4thD situationsUnder pressure

Championship-under pressureBased on my count, Colin Kaepernick was pressured on nine plays, that’s 31.0% of his total dropbacks and for the most part, he handled the pressure really well, escaping for big scramble runs and completing 3 of 5 pass attempts under pressure with one touchdown pass. Besides five pass attempts he also scrambled twice and was sacked two times. The other three scrambles weren’t the result of opponent’s pressure and at least one of those could be counted as a designed run play.

Kaepernick attempted 24 and completed 14 passes. He was intercepted twice which leaves him with eight incompletions. Here’s a breakdown of his incompletions:

Championship-incompletionsRun plays
Colin Kaepernick ran on seven designed run plays against Seattle for 53 yards (not counting the kneel down play), four QB draw plays, two bootleg runs and one read-option run. Kaepernick was even more successful when he scrambled, he gained 78 yards with his three scrambles.

Colin Kaepernick once again showed that he’s an athletic player with great ability to escape the pressure, extending the plays and turn scrambles into big plays. He also doesn’t get down after bad plays. On Sunday after his bad throw intended to A. Boldin which ended up being intercepted, he returned and completed similar pass to M. Crabtree. Where Kaepernick needs to improve is in scanning-the-field category in order to find his best options. Probably non bigger example than the last 49ers’ offensive play of this year’s NFC Championship game. Kaepernick decided, pre snap, where he wants to go with his pass based on defensive look, but Crabtree was well covered by CB Sherman. Kaepernick should have just checked down and throw a short pass to wide-open rookie WR Q. Patton who was in much better position.

last playBut the fact of the matter is that Kaepernick never looked his way.  It was first down play on SEA 18-yard line with plenty of time and two time-outs left and Kaepernick didn’t need to make that throw to Crabtree.
Colin Kaepernick was fortunate enough to get through the whole season without significant injury, something that can’t be said for many 49ers’ players. Some of them were injured on their last game of the season in the NFC Championship game so for them the main focus now has to be to get healthy and get ready to play for the 2014 season.


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